Arizona (62-59) at Houston (62-59)

Fair Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Fri Aug 15, 2008
  • TV: FSAZ, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Houston Astros have been the hottest team in baseball over the last three weeks. Arizona Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb, however, appears to be a prime candidate to cool them off.

The Astros look to extend their season-high win streak to nine games Friday night when they open a three-game home series against major-league wins leader Webb and the Diamondbacks.

Since falling into last place in the division July 23, Houston (62-59) has baseball’s best record at 16-4. The Astros have won eight straight for their longest win streak since a nine-game run from Sept. 20-28, 2006.

“When you’re playing like we’re playing, you start to feel a little invincible,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said after his team rallied for a total of four runs in the seventh and eight innings to complete a four-game sweep of San Francisco with a 7-4 win Thursday.

Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin is just as confident with his ace on the mound. Webb (17-4, 2.88 ERA) has won four straight starts with a 1.80 ERA in that stretch, and six straight decisions since losing at Minnesota on June 22. With a major league-best 17 victories, he’s one shy of matching last season’s career high.

The right-handed sinkerballer, who held Atlanta to one run in six innings of a 6-1 victory Sunday, is 4-1 with a 1.75 ERA in seven career starts against Houston. Arizona is 6-1 in those games.

“You always like to have a guy like that going the first day, especially against a team that’s hot,” Melvin told the team’s official Web site. “We feel like Webby can silence just about any team’s bats when he’s on.”

That likely won’t scare the Astros, who notched their fourth consecutive come-from-behind victory after first baseman Lance Berkman hit a tiebreaking two-run home run in the eighth inning Thursday. Houston has trailed at some point in five games during its eight-game run.

“It’s unexplainable,” said Berkman, who is 2-for-20 in his career versus Webb. “This is a fairly remarkable streak. When the guys are all playing well like this, you have this feeling that you can always come back. We definitely feel like we’re going to win when it’s close in the seventh.”

As well as they’ve played lately, the Astros know they’re going to have a hard time getting back to the postseason for the first time since the only World Series appearance in franchise history in 2005. They’d have to pass three teams in the division or five in the wild-card race in their last 41 games.

Though they have the same record as the Astros, the Diamondbacks have to feel a little more secure about their chances for a playoff berth in the weak NL West. Arizona managed to stay in a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers by beating Colorado 6-2 on Thursday for its third victory in four games after a four-game skid.

Diamondbacks utility man Chris Burke, who broke into the majors as one of the Astros’ top prospects in 2004, ended a 166 at-bat homerless streak with a solo shot in Arizona’s five-run fifth inning. He’s batting .197 in 69 games with Arizona.

“Everyone’s pulling for him,” Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren said. “He’s a big part of this team, he can play any position, and we’re going to need him down the stretch.”

The Astros will hand the ball to Wandy Rodriguez (7-4, 3.89) on Friday. After posting an 11.17 ERA over his previous two starts, the left-hander got back on track with a 13-4 win over Cincinnati on Sunday. He allowed two runs and five hits while striking out seven in 6 2-3 innings.

Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in four career outings against the Diamondbacks.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Webb Tex vs. W. Rodríguez Tex
22-7 Record 9-7
3.30 ERA 3.54
183 K 131
65 BB 44
1.20 WHIP 1.31

Scoreboard

Friday, Aug 15