A big night at the plate from the heart of Houston’s lineup put both to an end.
The Astros hope to build on their best offensive performance in months and finish a four-game series against the Marlins on a high note Thursday night.
Florida (60-54) had all the momentum going into Wednesday night’s game, having won seven straight at home against Houston (56-58) and five in a row overall to put some pressure on NL East-leading Philadelphia.
The Astros, however, jumped out to an early lead with five first-inning runs and added seven more in the fourth as they cruised to a 14-6 victory, their sixth in 18 games. It was their highest run total since a 15-11 win at Colorado on May 13.
“He’s a big factor for us,” manager Cecil Cooper said of Berkman, batting .277 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs in 90 games. “And we need him to be effective.”
Carlos Lee(notes) added three hits, three RBIs and two runs, and Hunter Pence(notes) connected on two three-run homers for a career-high six RBIs. Pence is 6 for 15 (.400) in this series after going 6 for 30 (.200) over his previous eight games.
Though they lost the first two games, the Astros have 28 runs and are batting .317 in this series. They are seven games back in both the NL Central and wild-card race.
“This was a big win for us,” Berkman said. “If we’re going to do anything this year, we have to do it now. It’s not early anymore.”
The Marlins are in better position, 4 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the division and three back of the wild card. They reached double figures in hits for the ninth straight game with 13 on Wednesday but couldn’t overcome the Astros’ big innings.
“It happens,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose club had scored 29 runs in its previous three games. “We go out (Thursday) and still have a chance to win the series. That’s what we always talk about.”
Florida will face Houston’s Mike Hampton(notes) (7-9, 5.30 ERA). The left-hander gave up three runs in two innings before leaving with a sprained right knee Saturday, suffering a 12-5 loss to Milwaukee. He got cortisone shots in both knees Sunday in hopes that he’ll be able to pitch through pain for the rest of the season.
“I’ve had some balky knees the whole season,” Hampton, who’s made 20 starts for his highest total since 2004, told the Astros’ official Web site. “I’m used to it, and I have to go out there and withstand the pain. As long as I don’t change my mechanics, everything will be all right.”
Hampton has gone 10-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 25 games against the Marlins.
Sean West(notes) (3-4, 4.88) will start the finale for Florida. The rookie left-hander was recalled from the minors to make his first start of the second half Saturday. He gave up three runs in four innings of a 6-4 win over Philadelphia.