Diamondbacks-Astros Preview

The Associated PressAugust 19, 2012

In the midst of a major rebuilding project, the Houston Astros are now looking for a new manager.

A day after Brad Mills and two coaches were fired, the woeful Astros return to the field Sunday as they try to prevent a season series sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Houston (39-82) has by far the worst record in the majors and is on pace to surpass last season's team-record 106 losses after dropping 39 of its last 46.

Following Saturday night's 12-4 defeat to Arizona, the Astros fired Mills, hitting coach Mike Barnett and first base coach Bobby Meacham. The players weren't told about the moves before leaving the ballpark.

It wasn't until Sunday morning that Tony DeFrancesco was named Mills' replacement on an interim basis. DeFrancesco had been manager of Houston's Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. Dan Radison will take over in the interim as first base coach and Ty Van Burkleo will be the hitting coach.

The Astros' struggles are hardly surprising given their young roster, which has a payroll of just $21.3 million following several midseason trades.

"It definitely puts things in a situation where wins are tougher because you're dealing with a lot of inexperienced individuals," Mills said recently.

The Diamondbacks (61-59) have taken full advantage, outscoring Houston 48-18 while taking the first five meetings of the season after winning their final three against the Astros last year.

They used a nine-run fifth inning to win Saturday's game, remaining within five games of the NL West lead and moving within five games of the league's second wild-card spot.

Houston native Chris Young led the way as Arizona won its third straight overall, going 4 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs. His average has hovered in the low .200s most of the summer, but he's 6 for 13 with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs in his last three games.

Young is batting .419 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 15 career games in his hometown.

"For some reason when I get here and have my all family here, I am able to make every situation a big-game situation, and it's been good so far," Young said. "It could be coincidence, but for the last five or six years I have come here, I have been able to get comfortable. I have been able to get my footing in the box pretty well."

Ian Kennedy (10-10, 4.35 ERA) hopes facing Houston will help him avoid losing a third straight start. After winning four straight outings behind a 2.54 ERA, the right-hander has been roughed up in his last two, giving up 11 runs - eight earned - and four homers over 10 innings.

He has had an up-and-down season after going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA last year.

"Well, he's not throwing the ball exactly like he was last year, and he's having a little different luck," manager Kirk Gibson said after Tuesday's 8-2 loss at St. Louis.

Kennedy has made only one previous start against the Astros, pitching 6 2-3 innings in a 1-0 victory in Houston in 2010.

Armando Galarraga (0-3, 5.75) is scheduled to pitch for the Astros. He was 3-4 with a 5.91 ERA in eight starts for the Diamondbacks in 2011 before being designated for assignment.

The right-hander joined the Astros after being released earlier this year by Baltimore, and he has allowed 15 runs and 16 walks over 20 1-3 innings since being called up from the minors July 28.