Astros Vs. Padres Series Preview: Houston Continues Stretch At Minute Maid Park

HOUSTON - JUNE 24: Chris Johnson #23 of the Houston Astros singles center scoring Carlos Lee #45 kin the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Minute Maid Park during an interleague game on June 24, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Coming off an impressive two-game winning streak against the Cleveland Indians, the Astros are right back at it against the San Diego Padres on Monday.

The Astros and Padres are both coming off series victories against American League opponents from interleague play over the weekend. Houston won two in a row against the Cleveland Indians after dropping the series opener, 2-0. San Diego won the opener and finale of its series against the Mariners, while losing Saturday's game.

The Stros and Padres begin a four-game series at Minute Maid Park on Monday. San Diego couldn't bring its 10-23 road record into a friendlier stadium, while Houston has scored 15 runs in its last two games there.

The Padres are last in the NL West division, 2 1/2 games behind the Rockies and 17 games out of first place, where the Dodgers sit. Houston is 9 1/2 games back of NL Central leading Cincinnati Reds.

But since we know about what the Astros have done: The compilation of extra-base hits and stellar pitching performances, let's do the honors of introducing the visiting Padres first:

Ross Ohlendorf is making just his fourth appearance and second consecutive start for San Diego since signing as a free agent on June 4. He gave up three earned runs on five hits in his last outing against Oakland, and he's going against a Houston lineup with a lot of confidence after the weekend.

Ohlendorf is 0-6 against the Astros in his career, which inlcudes nine starts in 11 appearances.

San Diego hasn't named a starter for Tuesday, when the Stros send Jordan Lyles to the mound, but LHP Clayton Richard (5-7, 3.95 ERA) will start against RHP Lucas Harrell (6-6, 4.77 ERA) on Wednesday.

Of course, Thursday is the big day when Bud Norris returns to the rotation and we find out if Dallas Keuchel's brief fill-in for Norris proves to be enough for him to earn his keep. Mills said The Padres are expected to start RHP Andrew Cashner (3-3, 3.81 ERA), nonetheless.

San Diego's rare success could be linked to their pitching, which has the seventh lowest collective ERA in the National League.

But just like the Astros for the most part of the season, the Padres have struggled to score runs. They beat the Mariners 9-5 last Friday, but rarely get down in such fashion. Chase Headley leads the Padres in batting average (.272), home runs (7) and RBIs (35). Headley had three hits in six at-bats against Mariners over the weekend.

This will be the first time the teams meet this season. The Padres were 5-3 against the Stros last season and split the four games at Minute Maid Park.

Wandy Rodriguez should be fine against the San Diego lineup and so should the rest of Houston's pitchers, but will the Astros' hitting expo continue? Perhaps the better question: Who are you going to beat at home if it's not the Padres?

Again, this is a team with 10 victories out of 33 games on the road this season. Here's a chance to get back to that earlier season form, or maybe even better given the way the Stros are getting meaningful hits and courageous outings from their starting pitchers.

Guys like Jordan Schafer and J.D. Martinez can pick up where they left off against the Indians, serving as tricky outs in the back of Houston's order.

Jose Altuve is listed as day-to-day after suffering a mild strain of his right hamstring in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against Cleveland. He said he should be back "soon" but there is no timetable for what that actually means.

Altuve could be back well before the Padres series is over, or we could look up and see him on the disabled list wondering what the hell happened to day-to-day. It didn't look as though it was too serious of an injury, but Altuve is batting .311 on the season, currently serving in the Astros leadoff spot. So the quicker he gets healthy, the better off the Astros are.

That said, Brian Bixler (who through no fault of his own is apparently from a place called Sandusky, OH) has a .400 career batting average against San Diego. And if Bixler happens to meet Clayton Richard on Wednesday, he's 3-of-6 against the lefty.

Read more about the Astros at The Crawfish Boxes. Head over to Gaslamp Ball for insight on the Padres fans' perspective. Baseball Nation is your source for news and analysis around Major League Baseball. Also subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube Channel for video commentary.

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