The Houston Astros are poised to forge ahead despite the loss of a key player.
Houston (58-59) finished off a four-game sweep at Cincinnati with a 13-4 win Sunday to conclude a 5-2 road trip. It was the Astros’ first game since Lee was sidelined for up to eight weeks with a broken left pinkie suffered in Saturday’s victory.
The left fielder leads the team with 28 homers and 100 RBIs.
“We’re just trying to pick up the slack,” Astros center fielder Michael Bourn said.
“We said people have to step up,” said manager Cecil Cooper, whose team can reach the .500 mark for the first time since June 11. “(Sunday was) a prime example that we’re capable of doing it.”
The Astros outscored the Reds 32-14 over the weekend.
Berkman, hitting .368 (7-for-19) in his last five games, went 7-for-15 with three homers and seven RBIs as Houston took three of four at San Francisco from May 12-15.
The Astros didn’t face the Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez (8-8, 4.64 ERA) in that series, but will try to extend his struggles Monday. Sanchez allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings of an 11-4 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday, his fourth consecutive losing decision.
“He started making some mistakes,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Sanchez, who has a 7.96 ERA in his last six games.
The left-hander will make his first start against Houston. He allowed a run in one-third of an inning against the Astros last May.
Houston counters with Brandon Backe (6-11, 5.35), who’s lost two in a row and was pounded in his last start. He gave up a career-high 11 runs in 3 1-3 innings of an 11-4 defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
“I just got hit around, that’s all there is to it,” Backe told the Astros’ official Web site. “It just wasn’t a good day out there.”
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in four starts versus San Francisco. He allowed three earned runs in six innings of a 4-2 loss to the Giants on May 13.
San Francisco (50-66) opens an eight-game road trip following Sunday’s 5-4 victory over Los Angeles to take that series and finish off a 4-2 homestand.
Aaron Rowand, who had the winning hit in a 3-2, 10-inning victory Saturday, had four hits and scored the winning run on an infield single to cap a two-run ninth Sunday. Randy Winn went 3-for-4 with three RBIs for the Giants, winners of three consecutive series.
“They’re fighting and that’s all you can ask,” Bochy said of the Giants, who are nine games out of first in the NL West.
Rowand is batting .450 (9-for-20) with six RBIs over his last six games and Winn is hitting .517 (15-for-29) with five RBIs in his last seven contests.