Wednesday May 29, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 142



Astros let division rival Cardinals fly the coup

Astros Reports

Aditya Godse

The Astros lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1, Tuesday, at Astros Field, losing seven of their last eight games showing just what's going wrong
this season.

They have a miserable record against the Cardinals, who have defeated them eight times out of the last 10 games. The Astros had snapped
their six-game losing steak, by defeating the Chicago Cubs with a comeback in the late innings to seal the victory.

But this Memorial Day did not prove to be lucky to them as they lost by one run. The Astros had 10 base runners in the first six innings but
scored only one run, when the Cardinals used four double plays to shut down the Astros. To make matters more frustrating, the Astros
stranded three runners at third.

That Astros are fourth in the National League Central Division with the Cincinnati Reds being on top. The Mets and Braves lead the NL East
and Arizona leads the NL West.

The Red Sox, Twins and Mariners lead the American League East, Central and West divisions, respectively.

This season the Astros have faced a severe power struggle, except for Lance Berkman. Jeff Bagwell has not hit a home run in 36 trips to the
plate, Richard Hidalgo in 35, Orlando Merced in 41 and Daryle Ward hasn't hit a dinger in his last 139 plate appearances. Lance Berkman has
been exceptional this season, and scored 2 home runs out of the 3 runs they scored against the Cardinals on Monday.

The season has seen the Astros struggle to win games when they haven't scored. Again this season the Astros find themselves six games
under .500, causing the fans to leave the park depressed.

Recent seasons have witnessed a severe dip in the offense. The feared batting order has been disappointing this season to such an extent
that even struggling pitchers have had success against them.

On the injury front, Wade Miller is coming off the disabled list to start Wednesday against the Cardinals, with Tim Redding temporarily being

Redding struggled in his first two starts after being brought up from New Orleans' Triple A team to take Miller's spot in the rotation, lasting only
two and three innings, respectively, in a pair of losses. After being asked whether Miller would be able to go deep in the game, manager Jimy
Williams said, " Hopefully, but at least we have some protection because that actually would have been Redding's day to pitch anyway."

T. J. Mathews, on the disabled list with a strained right biceps is making steady progress and should be playing long toss Wednesday.

On the positive side, Roy Oswalt is coming off his best starts of the season. He scattered seven hits and one run with one walk and 11
strike-outs over eight innings in a 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Oswalt, who has allowed only one home run over his last 63 innings (the fourth
longest streak in the majors this season), has pitched at least six innings in all eight starts this season, including seven quality starts.

The Astros face the St. Louis Cardinals again on Wednesday hoping to earn a badly needed victory, which will give the players some
confidence and lift the gloom in the clubhouse.

Sooner or later, the Astros must find an answer for their batting woes. Oswalt could stand to pitch with a lead every once in a while. He can't be
expected to be perfect to earn a victory. 

Manager Jimy Williams believes the Astros will find their bearings right away any time, but no one seems to have the answer. The Astros are
trying hard to get back to winning ways, with their fans being left to extend their hands, hoping their team gives them something to cheer about.

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