MLB Insiders - Houston Astros

Ian Snell

The Pirates begin a three game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

Houston will face Ian Snell (8-10, 3.93 ERA) on Friday night, coming off his first win in eight starts since the All-Star break. He gave up four runs - all on two homers - and struck out 10 in seven innings of an 8-4 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.

The right-hander, however, is 0-6 in 10 road starts since beating St. Louis on April 16.

Snell's only start this year against the Astros came on April 3, when he had a career-high 11 strikeouts in six innings of a 3-2 road win. He did not get the decision, and is 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA in seven games versus Houston.

The Astros counter with Matt Albers (3-6, 6.14). The rookie right-hander went 6 2-3 solid innings to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in his return to the rotation on Aug. 14, but five days later, he allowed five runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-3 defeat at San Diego.

Both of those outings came on the road, however, and Albers has given up only one run in his last 14 innings at home.

Albers has made one start and one relief appearance against Pittsburgh this season and did not get a decision either time, allowing a total of four runs and six hits in seven innings.

Troy Patton was ecstatic when he was informed that he will be promoted to the majors to start Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Minute Maid Park.

"This has been my dream since I was old enough to play sports," he said via telephone. "I was watching them on TV and I always wanted to be a professional baseball player like them." Patton, a 21-year-old left-hander, will finally get his chance to show why he's rated as the Astros' top pitching prospect.

Patton heard the news immediately after Class AAA Round Rock was rained out for the second consecutive night at Omaha.

"I'm real excited," Patton said. "I kind of suspected something was going to happen. They called me as soon as they announced it was a rainout. Burt (Hooton) said, 'Get in here.' They were just saying, 'You're pitching on Saturday. Congratulations. Take what you've done here and do it there, and you'll be fine."

Patton, the Astros' ninth-round pick in 2004, started the season at Class AA Corpus Christi.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder was 6-6 with a 2.99 ERA over 16 starts with the Hooks before he was promoted to the Express. He was 4-2 with a 4.59 ERA over eight starts at Round Rock.

"He deserves this opportunity," general manager Tim Purpura said. "He's worked very hard to get here. He certainly has the stuff to be successful in the big leagues, and it's certainly going to be fun to watch him on Saturday."

NATIONALS 7, ASTROS 6: After Juan Gutierrez retired the leadoff hitter, Nook Logan hit a bunt single back to the mound for the Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI double to left. Dmitri Young added an RBI double to right, giving the Nationals a 2-0 lead six pitches into Gutierrez's first major league start.

Austin Kearns made it 3-0 with an RBI double to center. Gutierrez struck out Ryan Church for the second out, but Ronnie Belliard followed with a two-run home run, as the Nationals went on to win.

--LF Carlos Lee almost single-handedly gave the Astros a chance with five RBIs and a pair of home runs, but it wasn't enough to undo the early damage.

With 102 RBIs, he became the first player in the NL with 100 RBIs this season.

--RHP Roy Oswalt, who was skipped from his start Thursday because of a strained left oblique muscle, will throw a bullpen session Friday for the first time since exiting his start Saturday with the injury against the San Diego Padres.

"I feel good," he said. "I mean, hopefully, it goes well. I'm not going to throw 100 percent (Friday), but I'm going to throw pretty well; where I'll know by Sunday if I can go Wednesday."

--In his first year as a manager with the Milwaukee Brewers, Phil Garner watched as his club beat the Toronto Blue Jays 22-2 on Aug. 28, 1992. So he understands how a contest can get out of hand even when a team isn't trying to humiliate an opponent.

"Every ball we hit found a hole," he said. "Actually, I looked over at (former Blue Jays manager) Cito Gaston at some point after 18 runs or something and I kind of put my hands up and said we weren't trying to embarrass anybody.

"We just couldn't make an out. We'd swing at bad pitches and still get a hit. Really, it got laughable. You don't want to bury a team so bad."

--With Juan Gutierrez, Mark McLemore and Matt Albers already up after starting the season at Round Rock, there really isn't a starting pitcher back at Class AAA who has wowed lately.

Which leads to the question, is there anybody pitching at Round Rock and standing out?

"Not really," Phil Garner said.

Is that a concern?

"Well, you never know," Garner said. "I know there are people who called up people out of desperation and guys have done well. (Others) called up people that are pitching lights-out (in the minors) that struggled when they get up here. You never know what you're going to get... You always feel better when guys are pitching good."

--SS Adam Everett, who is on the disabled list with a fracture in his right fibula, took batting practice and also jogged lightly Thursday.

"I think this week's going to be important to see how his running comes along," general manager Tim Purpura said. "You certainly can't put him back in on the field unless his running is back to pretty close to where he needs to be effective every day, especially being at his position."

Purpura expects Everett to return this season.

"Everybody heals at a different rate, and I don't think he's healed particularly slowly or anything like that," Purpura said. "You break your leg, it takes some time. When you're putting a good percentage of your body weight on that leg and then you add the forces of playing baseball and the rotational issues of turning your legs to make a play or turning your leg to swing a bat, it's a hard thing to predict."

--RHP Juan Gutierrez made his first major league start and third appearance Thursday, giving up six runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts over five innings.

He gave up five runs in the first inning.

--For the second day in a row, RHP Brandon Backe couldn't make his rehab start because Class AAA Round Rock's contest against Omaha was rained out.

--RHP Chris Sampson, on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain, was unable to make his rehab assignment Thursday because Class AAA Round Rock's game at Omaha was rained out. He was scheduled to throw one inning of relief.

BY THE NUMBERS: 122 -- Carlos Lee had started all 122 games of the Astros' games through Aug. 17, including 119 in left field and three at designated hitter. Lee ranked fourth in the majors in games played since the beginning of the 2003 season with 756 (through Aug. 17). Lee has played in 161 games in each of the previous two seasons and in at least 153 from 2003-2006.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The value of having a guy like Lance (Berkman) is he can play both positions (right field and first base), and having Mike Lamb (at first), we don't lose anything be being able to do that. If you don't have Mike Lamb, then you do lose something. That's why your bench can be very deceptive. If you don't have the guy that can step in and play, then you will be hurting." -- Manager Phil Garner, on how he can get the bats of Mike Lamb and Lance Berkman in the lineup while keeping Ty Wigginton at third.

RHP Jason Jennings (torn flexor tendon in right elbow) went on the disabled list Aug. 21, and he will undergo season-ending surgery.

OF Hunter Pence (right wrist capsular sprain, small chip fracture) went on the 15-day disabled list July 23. He was activated Aug. 21.

LF Carlos Lee (strained hip flexor) was injured Aug. 18 and sat out Aug. 19. He played Aug. 20.

RHP Roy Oswalt (strained left oblique muscle) left his Aug. 18 start, and he missed his Aug. 23 start. He will throw his first bullpen session Aug. 24.

LHP Stephen Randolph (strained posterior cruciate ligament) went on the disabled list Aug. 17. He will miss two to three weeks.

RHP Chris Sampson (sprained right ulnar collateral ligament) went on the disabled list Aug. 3. He will start a rehab assignment with Class AAA Round Rock on Aug. 24.

RHP Brandon Backe (Tommy John surgery in August 2006) opened the season on the disabled list. He suffered a setback after throwing a simulated game May 12. He made his first rehab start on Aug. 2 for Class AA Corpus Christi. He made the first of an expected five starts for Class AAA Round Rock on Aug. 7.

SS Adam Everett (fractured fibula) went on the disabled list June 15. He hopes to be back in September.

C Hector Gimenez (right shoulder surgery in March 2007) opened the season on the 15-day disabled list, and he likely will miss the entire season. He was transferred to the 60-day disabled list June 1. Recommended Stories

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