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Astros-Brewers Preview


Astros-Brewers Preview
The Houston Astros slumped at the end of April before a home sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers at the start of May launched an extended run of success. They're hoping a series in Milwaukee can spark similar results.

After their usually dependable offense sputtered in their third loss in four games, the Astros look to get back on track as they open a three-game set against the NL Central rival Brewers at Miller Park on Friday night.

Houston (30-25) lost four of its last five games in April to fall three games under .500 - an inauspicious start for a club that underwent a major roster overhaul in the offseason.

However, the Astros responded with three straight wins over the Brewers from May 2-4, and went on to win nine of 10 overall. They have averaged 5.1 runs and hit .285 while compiling a 17-9 record in May - among the best marks in baseball.

The Astros, however, have cooled off with losses in three of their last four contests. They totaled only three runs and 10 hits while losing the final two games of a three-game series against St. Louis, capped by a 3-2 defeat on Thursday night.

Despite the sudden dropoff in production, the Astros didn't sound too worried.

"If we just keep doing what we've been doing all year, we're going to be just fine," third baseman Ty Wigginton told the team's official Web site. "It is a long season and we just have to stay consistent and good things will happen."

The Brewers (26-28) have also struggled offensively in their last two games. They pulled out a 1-0 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday despite totaling only three hits, but lost to the Braves 8-1 on Thursday, ending a three-game win streak.

They'll try to get back on track against Houston starter Brandon Backe (4-5, 4.19 ERA), who has held opponents to four runs and 11 hits in 13 2-3 innings while winning back-to-back starts for the first time this season.

The right-hander gave up one run in a season-high 7 1-3 innings against a powerful Philadelphia lineup in a 4-3 victory last Friday.

Backe, who's coming off elbow ligament replacement surgery, says he's finally getting into a rhythm after two injury-shortened seasons.

"The repetition, the amount of pitches I've thrown this year (has helped me) find the strike zone and keep the ball in there," he said.

Backe is 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA in seven career games - four starts - against Milwaukee.

The Brewers will hand the ball to Manny Parra (2-2, 5.11), who was tagged for six runs in 4 1-3 innings of Milwaukee's 7-6 loss at Washington on Sunday. It's been an inconsistent season for the left-hander, who has lasted six innings in just one of his 10 starts.

"You just try to be as honest with yourself as you can to try and figure out why (things happen)," he told the team's official Web site. "It just comes down to getting ahead of guys in the count and being efficient with my pitches."

Parra made his first career appearance against the Astros during the clubs' May series. He gave up six runs in four innings of a 6-2 defeat on May 3.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 30, 2008

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