It might be too late for either the Houston Astros or the Arizona Diamondbacks to get back into the playoff chase. Based on both clubs’ recent play, however, the Astros still have to prefer their position.
The Astros go for their season-high fifth straight win Sunday when they try to complete a home sweep of the Diamondbacks, losers of seven straight.
After a 7-16 slide seemed to put the playoffs out of reach, Houston (61-62) has matched its longest winning streak of the year. The Astros are still eight games back in the wild-card race and nine behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central, but they’re encouraged by their recent play.
The same can’t be said for the Diamondbacks (54-70), who have lost seven in a row for the first time since June 5-11, 2006. They haven’t had a longer skid since dropping nine straight from Aug. 5-14, 2004.
Arizona has been outscored 48-14 during its current losing streak, which continued with a 4-2 defeat in Houston on Saturday night.
“Usually when you get solid pitching, you have a chance, and we’ve had three really good starts in a row,” manager Cecil Cooper told the Astros’ official Web site. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, who held a brief team meeting after the game, didn’t have as many good things to say.
“We’ll keep it in house what was said,” said Hinch, whose club had won four of five before the skid. “But it was not anything that isn’t obvious. We’ve had a miserable week and we need to be sure and keep our chins up.
“This is not easy on anybody. But today’s loss doesn’t have to lead to tomorrow’s. A week ago we were hitting on all cylinders but right now we’re not. We need to get that back.”
Garland gave up five runs and a season-high 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings in a 5-1 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday.
In three regular-season starts against the Astros, Garland is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He lost his only start against them this year but pitched well, giving up three runs in seven innings of a 6-4 defeat June 13.
Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada(notes), who went 2 for 4 on Saturday to snap a 2-for-31 slump, is hitting .423 with two home runs and a double in his career against Garland. Utility man Darin Erstad(notes) has a career .370 average against him.
The Astros will counter with Bud Norris(notes) (3-1, 4.05), who has been a solid addition to a starting rotation that has struggled behind Roy Oswalt(notes) and Wandy Rodriguez(notes). Norris, however, gave up a season-high five earned runs in 5 2-3 innings to suffer his first defeat in a 6-2 loss to Florida on Tuesday.
Norris has never faced Arizona.