The Houston Astros weren’t expected to continue their recent surge after losing their hottest hitter to a finger injury Saturday.
In three games without Carlos Lee, however, the club has managed not only to withstand his absence, but also put together their two best offensive performances of the season.
After another big night at the plate pulled them over .500 for the first time in more than two months, the Astros go for their season-high seventh straight win as they continue a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Lee was leading the majors with a .390 batting average and 47 RBIs since June 20 when he was hit in the hand by a pitch in Houston’s win over Cincinnati on Saturday. The outfielder underwent surgery to insert pins in his broken left pinkie finger Monday, and could miss the rest of the season.
That didn’t bode well for the Astros (60-59), who were making their way back toward respectability after falling into last place in the NL Central on July 23.
Houston, though, hasn’t stopped that climb without Lee. In their first full game without the two-time All-Star, the Astros recorded a season-high run total in a 13-4 win over the Reds. After winning the series opener against the Giants 3-1 on Monday, they put together their second-highest run total in a 12-4 win Tuesday night.
Houston’s season high-tying sixth straight victory gave it a winning record for the first time since the club was 33-32 on June 10. The Astros haven’t had a longer win streak since a nine-game run from Sept. 20-28, 2006.
Houston scored eight of its runs in the seventh inning Tuesday, taking advantage of an injury to San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum. The All-Star left after getting hit in the right knee by a line drive in the fifth. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said X-rays were negative and Lincecum would be re-evaluated Wednesday.
“It caught him in a good spot,” Bochy said. “It paralyzed him for a little bit. But he’s walking around pretty good now. That’s good news. That’s the only good news we got tonight.”
San Francisco (50-68) has lost five of six against Houston this season.
The Astros hope to continue that dominance by extending their win streak with Randy Wolf (7-10, 4.67 ERA) on the mound. Wolf is 1-0 with a 4.11 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 15 1-3 innings spanning three starts since he was acquired from San Diego on July 22. Houston is undefeated in those games.
The left-hander gave up four runs in six innings against Cincinnati on Friday night before the Astros rallied for four runs in the 10th inning of the 9-5 victory.
Wolf has delivered four quality starts in his last five outings against the Giants, going 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA in that stretch. He’s 5-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 12 career starts against San Francisco.
The Giants will counter with Barry Zito (6-14, 5.55), whose inconsistent season continued with a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. The left-hander pitched eight scoreless innings to win his previous start, but was tagged for five runs in five innings of Friday’s defeat - his career-high 14th of the year.
Zito is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two career starts against the Astros.