By Adam Berry
The Astros welcome the Giants to Houston on Friday, facing off for the first time this season with less than 40 games remaining. San Francisco is trying to regain the form that made it the World Series champion last year, while Houston is building for the future.
Coming to Houston, the Giants had lost 14 of their past 19 games and 15 of 22, settling into second place in the National League West due to a combination of poor hitting, unfortunate injuries and untimely late-game letdowns against Atlanta.
But San Francisco can find comfort in its relatively forgiving schedule. With the Braves behind them, the Giants play only one club with a winning record — the D-backs, whom they face six times down the stretch. Theoretically, the Giants and D-backs are, therefore, in control of their own fate in the division race. Plus, the Giants are 27-14 in Minute Maid Park, the best winning percentage there among all Major League teams.
The Astros, on the other hand, have 12 rookies on the 25-man roster and an average age of 27.3 years old. Sixteen of their players are 27 or younger, 10 are 26 or younger and five are 23 or younger.
Houston and San Francisco kick off a three-game series Friday, with Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez squaring off against right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who will look to add another chapter to his storybook season by helping right his club’s ship.
Rodriguez has a chance to even his record at 9-9 and lower his 3.50 ERA. The Astros are 10-12 in his 22 starts, and Rodriguez is 7-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 17 starts since April 30. He’s had only three career starts against the Giants, two of which came last year, and he is 1-2 with a 5.17 ERA.
The opener will mark a homecoming for Giants second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who was dealt by the Astros on July 19 in a trade that included Sunday starter Henry Sosa. Whether or not Keppinger will be able to play, however, remains to be seen.
Like many contributors on San Francisco’s roster, Keppinger is dealing with an injury — a bone bruise in his right wrist.
Add Keppinger to a lengthy list of injured Giants that includes right fielder Carlos Beltran, center fielder Andres Torres, setup man Sergio Romo, closer Brian Wilson, lefties Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez and, of course, Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey.
Giants: Injury prone
The Giants have used the disabled list 21 times this season, putting 18 different players on there. Mark DeRosa, Torres and Zito have been on the disabled list twice, while Sanchez and Posey are out for the season.
• The Giants have not lost a game this season in which they had a lead of three runs or more, going 32-0 in such contests and making them the only unbeaten team in the Majors in those situations.
Astros: Club begins early talks about callups
Astros general manager Ed Wade and manager Brad Mills have begun discussing what they are going to do when rosters can be expanded beyond 25 players on Sept. 1, and though the talks are just preliminary, it’s unlikely many players will be called up — perhaps another pitcher or two and a third catcher. Most of the organization’s top prospects were promoted to the Majors following the trades of Keppinger, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn.
“We’ve gone over some things,” Mills said. “Nothing is set in stone yet. It’s kind of in the first phase of talking about it a little bit. There has been some [talk], but it’s been very minimal.”
• San Francisco’s 82 quality starts lead the Majors.
• The Astros are first in the NL and fourth in the Majors with 238 doubles.
See Related: Giants Archive