Astros keep on rolling

By taking three of four games from the Padres this week, the Astros have won eight of their last 10 series and six of their last eight games to get within one game of .500 for the first time since they were 1-2 on April 8.

“You’ve got to get to .500, and that was kind of the goal for the All-Star break,” Lance Berkman said. “Hopefully we can get there and make up a little ground above.500. Every year that I’ve been here that we’ve been .500 or close to it at the break and we’ve ended up having a good year. Hopefully that will continue.”

They’ve played tremendous baseball during a portion of their schedule in which they’ve played struggling teams like Kansas City and San Diego, but they have recently won series from a first-place team in Detroit and a contender in the Minnesota Twins.

The biggest reason for the Astros’ surge is pitching, especially starting pitching. Astros starters are 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA in the team’s last 12 games, and the starting pitching has been so good the Astros have gone to a six-man rotation.

“We went to the World Series [in 2005] with maybe the worst offense that’s ever gone to a World Series, but we knew we had a chance to win every game because our starters and our bullpen were so good,” Berkman said. “This team is vastly better offensively and recently the pitching has been just as good.

“This is a pretty good team. This was an underrated team coming out of Spring Training. We have flaws like everybody else, but there’s parity game in the game like maybe there’s never been before. We have as good of a lineup as anyone in the Central and our pitching is good.”

This weekend’s series in San Francisco — in which they will face former Cy Young winners in Tim Lincecum (Saturday) and Randy Johnson (Sunday) — will be difficult, but then the Astros come home to face the a pair of last-place clubs in Washington and Pittsburgh.

The Astros are poised to be in good position to make a second-half run, but the schedule out of the All-Star break is difficult.

“I think we’re in good spot,” Geoff Blum said. “I still think we can be better and I’m sure everybody else in here thinks we can be better, but this is something we can build on, scoring seven runs a couple of times in a big ballpark like [PETCO]. We’ve been facing some good pitchers the last couple of weeks or so, and we’re going to run into some good ones in San Francisco.”



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