It would take more than a weekend for the Houston Astros to turn their season around, but winning a series against the team with the best record in the majors could be the spark to start such a comeback.
The Astros try to secure a winning home set with a second consecutive victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.
Owners of the NL’s worst record, Houston (15-27) opened interleague play by snapping Tampa Bay’s six-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory Friday.
The win was the second in eight games for the Astros, who improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 at home over the AL East-leading Rays (30-12). Tampa Bay has lost just five times in 22 road games this season.
“We just continue to play hard and things like that can happen,” said Astros outfielder Hunter Pence(notes), who drove in the go-ahead run with a sixth-inning single. “Every win you want to be a springboard, but really and truly you just have to keep coming every day prepared.”
“Every win right now is magnified for us,” Myers said. “We can’t look too far ahead, but we’ll try to come back and get another one.”
Jeff Keppinger(notes) added two hits for the Astros, who’ve scored just 20 runs in their last eight contests. The club’s new full-time second baseman after Kaz Matsui’s release, Keppinger is 9 for 21 with five RBIs in his last five games.
Though Niemann will make his professional debut at Minute Maid Park, he pitched there in college while playing for nearby Rice.
“I’ll try to keep the emotions in check,” Niemann told the Rays’ official website. “It’s going to be fun. I’ll try to take it all in.”
Niemann, who allowed three runs in six innings of a 4-3, 11-inning victory over Cleveland on Monday, has not given up more than three runs in any of his previous eight starts.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three interleague starts, all of which have come on the road.
The left-hander, 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA in 16 interleague starts, allowed two runs and struck out six in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss in his only appearance against Tampa Bay on June 21, 2008.
Zobrist, who came up in the Astros system before getting traded to the Rays in 2006, is 9 for 15 in his last four games.