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4/20 - Marlins @ Astros


Hammerhead
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The Houston Astros have won consecutive games for the first time and three of four overall as they attempt to put their dreadful start behind them.

 

Getting Lance Berkman back should only make it easier.

 

Recovered from spring knee surgery, the five-time All-Star is expected to make his season debut Tuesday night as the Astros open a nine-game homestand with the first of three against the Florida Marlins.

 

Houston (3-9) scored 14 runs in losing its first eight games, and the absence of Berkman was only exacerbated by the early struggles of outfielders Carlos Lee (.104) and Hunter Pence (.156) in the middle of the order.

 

The Astros' 14 runs over their last four games may be far from outstanding, but combined with some solid starts, they've won three times. Wandy Rodriguez followed Roy Oswalt's seven shutout innings Saturday by allowing two runs over seven innings Sunday, and Houston rallied from a 2-0 deficit against the Cubs' bullpen to win 3-2 in 10 innings at Wrigley Field.

 

"It was a good team effort," former Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom told the Astros' official website after picking up his second consecutive save. "It was a good win for us, and it will give us a lot of momentum getting Lance back, too, with this next homestand. It's huge for us. We can use this momentum to go on a winning streak."

 

Lindstrom, who will see Florida (8-5) for the first time since the offseason deal that sent him to Houston for two minor leaguers, figures to have a better chance of being needed late in the game with Berkman set to come back. The first baseman had arthroscopic knee surgery March 13, but appears set to return after going 3 for 4 with a homer in a Triple-A rehab game on Sunday.

 

While Berkman claims his knee isn't 100 percent, he said it's close enough for him to play.

 

"I wouldn't say it's completely behind me, but I would say it's good enough to get out there and play," Berkman said. "I hadn't played a game in five weeks, so obviously not just my knee, but every part of me is kind of sore, just because I hadn't been in game action."

 

Should Berkman return Tuesday, he'll get a look at another pitching staff that's gaining confidence. After allowing eight runs to hot-hitting Philadelphia in Friday's opener, the Marlins got a complete game from Ricky Nolasco in a 5-1 win Friday and yielded four hits in Sunday's 2-0 victory.

 

"When we pitch, we've got a chance," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But one run in 18 innings, with that lineup?"

 

Chris Volstad (1-1, 3.46 ERA) will try to keep the string of strong starts going Tuesday. He's lasted into the seventh inning in both outings, allowing three runs over 6 2/3 in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Cincinnati.

 

Volstad, who's 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in two starts against the Astros, didn't make it into the sixth in his last seven starts of 2009.

 

Houston counters with Brett Myers (0-1, 3.46), who bounced back after allowing four runs and a career-high 12 hits over six innings in his Astros debut April 7. The right-hander was on the hook for a 2-1 loss in St. Louis on Wednesday, but he gave up two runs -- one earned -- and struck out seven.

 

Myers was 1-5 with a 7.97 ERA in his last seven starts against Florida while pitching for Philadelphia.

 

Two of the Marlins' big bats have done plenty of that damage. Dan Uggla is hitting .378 with five homers against Myers, while Jorge Cantu -- who's hit safely in 17 straight games dating to last season -- is batting .429 with one home run.

http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/preview?gameId=300420118&teams=florida-marlins-vs-houston-astros

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