Wednesday, July 10, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 154



Break could cool hot streak

Astros Report

Aditya Godse

The Astros seem to have finally found the momentum they've been searching for since (without trying to sound too dramatic) Opening
Day. The only problem is that they had to take three days off during the All-Star break.

Without question, players, coaches and managers not to mention trainers, traveling secretaries, clubhouse managers and public
relations directors covet the three-day break between halves of a grueling six-month season.

But the Astros, thanks to a 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Sunday, are on a roll after finishing up their longest
road trek of the year with a 7-2 record to wrap up what was a disappointing first half.

Winners of 10 of their last 14 games, the Astros finished the first half four games below .500 at 41-45, but incredibly enough, they
entered Sunday's contest only six and one-half games behind first-place St. Louis.

It kind of makes them want to play as soon as possible. The winning road trip was Houston's first of the year.

The club finished at the .500 mark on the road only twice this year, with the remainder of the trips resulting well below that level.

The Astros won three consecutive road series this time around, beating the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds twice of three
games and went on to defeat the Bucs three games out of a four-game series.

"It was a good game for us," manager Jimy Williams told the media Sunday. "We got some key hits, certainly from Merced and some
other people too. But that one big inning helped us a lot. We had some good at-bats. We didn't necessarily rely on the home run."

The Astros headed into the All-Star break with the knowledge all was not lost. Buoyed by victories in eight of their last 10 games, they
moved a step closer to respectability.

The team may not be together physically until Thursday for a four-game series against Cincinnati, but they are still united in their
feeling that the club, at one time 10 games below .500 and 10 and one-half games out of first place, remarkably still has a chance to
win the division crown.

Super Berkman

The "Killer Bs" came out swinging in the first seven games of Houston's most recent road trip.

Lance Berkman hit .419 (13-for-31) with six homers and 17 runs batted in, Craig Biggio hit .400 (12-for-30) and Jeff Bagwell hit at a
.355 clip (11-for-31) with three homers and nine RBI.

The Astros seemed lost more often than not in the first half, but their fans have hope after the offense re-emerged in style over the last
two weeks.


Daryle Ward fouled a ball off the little toe on his right foot July 3 at Cincinnati, but X-rays taken the next day came back negative. Ward
sat out Thursday's game against the Pirates, but did appear as a pinch-hitter on Friday.

Ward said the time off gave him plenty of time to heal and he did not feel any further pain, a point he proved Saturday when he
launched a grand slam into the Allegheny River behind PNC Park.

"Maybe they haven't seen my salary in the paper. I'd sign something for him in a trade, but it's not like it was my 74th home run," Ward
said in response to a river boater jumping ship to retrieve the ball in exchange for money.

The minors

T.J. Mathews pitched a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out one, during his first rehab assignment at Triple-A in New
Orleans on Saturday.

Williams said Mathews would probably pitch at least six more times before the veteran reliever is ready to rejoin the Astros.

The stars come out

After barely making a dent in the Home Run Derby, Berkman, playing in his second All-Star game Tuesday, delivered some drama
late in the contest.

Berkman's National League team took a 7-6 lead in the eighth inning when he singled off the American League's Kazuhiro Sasaki to
bring in two runs.

The game was called after the 11th inning with the score tied 7-7. National League Manager Bob Brenly told Commissioner Bud
Selig he had run out of pitchers to use. It's only the second time in 73 All-Star games that a game has ended in a tie.

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