Once again, the Houston Astros have a chance to reach .500 for the first time since the second game of the season.
The Astros can get back to the break-even point Tuesday night when they continue a three-game home set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Houston (40-41) is halfway through its season with a record two games better than at the same point during its 86-win effort in 2008. The Astros have won eight of 12 and are 3 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central.
Since the first week of the season, Houston has had one other opportunity to reach .500, losing 13-0 at San Francisco on Friday.
Miguel Tejada(notes) had two doubles and two RBIs in Monday’s 4-1 victory after being named to the All-Star team the day before. Tejada is 18 for 37 (.486) with eight doubles against Pittsburgh this year.
“(Tejada) has been really consistent all year,” manager Cecil Cooper told the Astros’ official Web site. “I don’t think he has gone more than a couple ball games without getting big hits for us, and tonight he did it again.”
Pirates All-Star second baseman Freddy Sanchez(notes) missed his fourth consecutive start with back spasms and is listed as day to day. Manager John Russell said Sanchez did not take any swings when the team took early batting practice and he may not be available for this series.
The Astros have won four straight starts by Brian Moehler(notes) (5-4, 5.64 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA in that span. He yielded one run over six innings and survived a season-high four walks Wednesday to earn a 7-1 victory at San Diego.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against the Pirates this year. He scattered seven hits for his first complete game since 2000 in a 9-1 win May 29 at Pittsburgh.
Moehler would be happy not to see Sanchez, who is 11 for 19 with five doubles against him.
“I think people look at him and say, ‘Why does he only have five wins?’” Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I think he’s been consistent, if you take away two or three starts.”
The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts versus Houston in 2009. He is 2-3 with a 7.76 ERA in five career outings at Minute Maid Park, although he has won his last two starts there, posting a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings.
Maholm has shut down Houston sluggers Carlos Lee(notes) and Lance Berkman(notes) over the years. Lee is 6 for 29 (.207) against Maholm while Berkman, hitting .205 versus left-handers this season, is 3 for 23 (.130).