Speedy center fielder Michael Bourn(notes) could be ready to return from a minor groin injury for the Houston Astros’ next game. If he isn’t, manager Cecil Cooper probably won’t have a problem with keeping Bourn’s replacement in the lineup.
Whether it’s Bourn or Jason Michaels(notes) in center field, the Astros hope to continue getting solid production from the position as they host the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night.
Bourn has been the catalyst at the top of Houston’s batting order this year, hitting a career-high .286 with 39 stolen bases and 70 runs scored, also a personal best.
However, he hasn’t been able to help the club lately because of a nagging groin problem. He’s day to day, but Cooper expects him to be ready to play Saturday.
That would likely send Michaels back to the bench in spite of his success at the plate in two starts in Bourn’s place. The veteran homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Astros (54-55) to a 6-3 win in the series opener Friday night, two days after he delivered a two-run double and scored a run in a loss to San Francisco - his first start in nearly three weeks.
Michaels said after Friday’s game he’d accept his role as a reserve if Bourn can play Saturday.
“That’s the life of a bench guy,” said Michaels, who has lifted his average 18 points to .211 and tripled his home run total to three over the last two games.
“That’s the way it is. I’m just trying to go out and have some good at-bats, play good defense. But it felt nice to contribute.”
Michaels’ contributions helped Houston pull into a tie with Milwaukee (54-55), five games behind division-leading St. Louis. The Brewers fell to 4-3 against the Astros this season, all at Minute Maid Park.
Milwaukee hopes to bounce back Saturday by handing the ball to Manny Parra(notes) (6-8, 6.33 ERA), who has won all three of his decisions since the All-Star break after dropping his last four of the first half.
The left-hander won Monday as he gave up four runs in a career-high eight innings in a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s 3-3 with a 4.88 ERA lifetime versus the Astros, including a loss in his only start against them this year.
The Astros counter with Mike Hampton(notes) (7-8, 5.14 ERA). After giving up a career high-tying nine earned runs in his previous outing, the left-hander held San Francisco to two runs - one earned - in six innings of his 4-3 victory Monday. He’s 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA over his last five home starts.
Hampton is 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 13 career starts against the Brewers. He has no record and a 5.40 ERA in two games against them this season, both Astros losses.