Astros have .500 blues

Entering Tuesday’s game, the Astros are 0-5 this season when they are two games under .500. Of course, they come into Tuesday’s game against San Diego at 36-38, looking to get within one game of .500 for the first time since they were 1-2 way back in the first week of season. Had the Astros not blown Sunday’s game against Detroit, they would be at .500

Former manager Phil Garner used to preach all the time his goal was to reach .500 before he would enable himself to look ahead. It seemed to work for him, too, because the Astros made a few second-half mad dashes under Scrap Iron.

Current manager Cecil Cooper admitted Tuesday getting to .500 would be a boost.

“I think it would be huge for us,” he said. “I know last year – I can’t talk about ’07 or whatever – it was the goal to get there, and we finally got there. Before the break we were scuffling to get there. After the break that was our mission.”

The Astros were 44-51 at the All-Star break last year and went 15-8 out of the break to reach .500 (59-59) on Aug. 11.

Since May 31 this year, the Astros are 17-10 entering Tuesday.

“I think we’ve played probably some of the best baseball here the last month or so,” Cooper said. “We just can’t seem to make that final step and get over the hump and hopefully this is the time to do it. We’ve always hit a bump and stepped up, but we need to keep pushing.

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Kaz Matsui was given the day off Tuesday, and Cooper assured me he’s not hurt. Matt Kata got the second at second. Also, Miguel Tejada was hitting second again Tuesday for the second consecutive game after Jeff Keppinger had hit second in the previous 11 games.

Tejada was hitting .420 (58-for-138) in the No. 2 hole prior to Tuesday.

“I know he’s been awfully good in that spot, and that’s kind of where he jumpstarted early in the year hitting there,” Cooper said. “He doesn’t strike out and puts the ball in play for the most part. It’s helped Michael [Bourn] has been hitting in front of him and getting on base. I don’t know if it’s the guys behind him or the guys in front of him, but he usually ends up putting the ball in play.”

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Watching the highlights from Monday night’s game, both Roy Oswalt of the Astros and Tim Lincecum of the Giants threw two-hit complete games. Of course, the Astros play the Giants this weekend in San Francisco, which had me getting excited for a Lincecum-Oswalt match-up since they both pitched Monday.

Astros general manager Ed Wade reminded me the Astros are working with a six-man rotation, meaning Oswalt will likely go Sunday and Lincecum on Saturday. Oh well.

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