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Volume 68, Issue 11, Tuesday, September 10, 2002


Astros can still catch Cardinals

The Strike Zone

Geronimo Rodriguez

Addicted to the Astros and knowing how the team loves to worry its die-hard fans, itis fair to say the Houston had better hit a winning streak, or the players will soon be loading their tackle boxes and hunting gear for the off-season.

After completing what should be quick work of the Colorado Rockies, the Houston Astros will begin one of this seasonis most crucial series when St. Louis comes to town.

Considering how the Astros struggled with the Rockies on Monday night, it may seem a bit hurried to predict Colorado wonit offer much of a fight in the two games left in the three-game series.

But if the Astros (77-67) want to contend for the National Leagueis Central Division pennant, the team has to accelerate its performance in the coming games against the less-than-average Rockies (65-79).

The Astros have 10 home games remaining in the season and just 19 games to catch the streaking Cardinals.

If the team does accomplish the task at hand, the Astros would face the Cardinals (82-61) on Thursday trailing first place by five-and-one-half games. The four-game series might be the last chance for the ‘Stros to control their postseason fate when one considers how well the Cardinals have been playing.

The Red Birds have picked up the pace in their last few games, winning 21 of their last 30 games. St. Louis will also finish the season with a 10-game home-stand.

Astros update

As of press time Monday night, the Astros and Rockies were tied at five apiece in the 10th inning.

After a few lead changes, Rockiesi outfielder Todd Helton belted a solo homerun in the sixth inning off Pedro Borbon — the third pitcher of the game for the Astros.

Colorado began the scoring in the second inning when catcher Gary Bennett singled, driving in Helton. Taking a 4-0 lead into the fourth inning, the Astrosi outfielder Jason Lane brought his team within one, hitting a three-run homer off former Astros ace Mike Hampton. Infielder Geoff Blum tied the game at four with the ‘Strosi second home run of the inning.

Hampton (7-15, 6.12 ERA) pitched five innings, allowing four runs on four hits and moving his ERA to 6.15, before being relieved by Kent Mercker.

Starting pitcher Pete Munro made a cameo appearance in what should have been a starring role for the Astros. Munro (5-3, 2.95 ERA) pitched only two and two-thirds innings, allowing four runs on four hits and walking three batters.

As for the Cardinals, they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-0, Monday night.

Photo finish

Heading into the final games of the season, Houstonis Lance Berkman trails league leaders in two categories: home runs and RBIs.

Berkmanis 39 round-trippers is five away from the Chicago Cubsi Sammy Sosa, who has 44. San Franciscois Barry Bonds and Los Angelesi Shawn Green also lead Berkman with 43 and 40 home runs, respectively.

Albert Pujols leads Berkman by one in the RBI race. The power-hitting Cardinal has 114 while Berkman has 113.

Ishii undergoes surgery

After being struck in the head by a line drive by the Astrosi Brian Hunter Sunday, Los Angeles Dodgersi rookie pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii had a two-hour operation Monday to clear his nasal passage of bone chips.

The left-hander, who also sustained a concussion, was credited for the 6-2 loss against the ‘Stros, moving his record to 14-10 and ERA to 4.27.

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