HOUSTON -- The speed of Michael Bourn has put him in exclusive company.
Bourn stole his 50th base of the season in the first inning of Monday's series opener against the Brewers, making him just the second Astros player to steal at least 50 bases in consecutive seasons. Bourn, who stole 61 bases in 2009, joins Cesar Cedeno, who swiped at least 50 in six consecutive seasons (1972-77).
Bourn's 152 stolen bases with the Astros is one shy of allowing him to break into the club's all-time top 10 list in that department and ties him Gerald Young, who stole 153 from 1987-1992. Young owns the franchise's single-season record with 65 in 1998, and Cedeno holds the club's career record with 487 steals.
"It's an honor to be in that category with [Cedeno]," said Bourn, who grew up in Houston. "I know he was a fabulous center fielder at the time he was playing here. I just try to use what I can and use my ability the best way I can."
Entering Monday, Bourn led the National League in steals and infield hits and was tied for third in bunt hits. He has already set a career high with 37 RBIs this year as Houston's leadoff hitter. The Astros acquired Bourn from the Phillies prior to the 2008 season in the Brad Lidge trade.
Bogusevic soaking up experience
HOUSTON -- Brian Bogusevic, the Astros' first-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has appeared in only six games since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock for his Major League debut on Sept. 1, but that doesn't mean he's not been able to gain some valuable experience.
"It's a chance to be around some guys who have been doing it at this level for a while and watch how they go about their business, especially when all of a sudden you're not playing every day and you're going in to pinch-hit," said Bogusevic, who has two hits in eight at-bats.
Bogusevic, who was drafted in 2005 as a pitcher before making the move to the outfield in 2008, has been studying the work habits of veterans like Jason Michaels and Geoff Blum to see how they prepare themselves to be ready to pinch-hit.
"You watch when they go up and start getting loose in the game and how they study the other team's bullpen and you play that guessing game of who you're going to face," Bogusevic said. "It's interesting and really beneficial to see all these guys approach the game every day."
After playing on a regular basis for years, Bogusevic has quickly learned how difficult it is to pinch-hit.
"It's approaching it intelligently and knowing the game situation and when a pinch-hit might come, or a double-switch," he said. "You're playing manager all day and trying to figure out when you'll be used so you're ready to go when it's your time. It's a tough thing to do."
Keppinger, Johnson back in Astros' lineup
HOUSTON -- Starting second baseman Jeff Keppinger and third baseman Chris Johnson both returned to the lineup for Monday's game against the Brewers after nursing nagging injuries.
Keppinger sat out Sunday's game against Dodgers because his sore left big toe began acting up Saturday, forcing manager Brad Mills to give the veteran a day off. Keppinger entered Monday with eight hits in his past nine games, during which he was batting .333.
"That day off after the night game and giving him more rest helped ... he's feeling good," Mills said.
Johnson, a rookie, had missed the previous two games with soreness in his lower back. Johnson began Monday ranked second among National League rookies in batting average (.319) and fourth in slugging percentage.
"It helped a lot," Johnson said of the time off. "I got some treatment and some ice on it for a couple of days. I took batting practice today and it feels good, so I'm ready."
Juggling 'pen remains challenge for Mills
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Brad Mills used six relief pitchers in Sunday's 7-4 win over the Dodgers, but it wasn't strictly a matter of finding the right matchup. Mills has been changing relief pitchers frequently in an effort to not overuse any particular pitcher.
"I'm more concerned about limiting pitches than I am other things right now," Mills said.
The Astros have played in tight games in the last week, and Mills has had to juggle his bullpen to keep it fresh. He would like to get rookie Henry Villar and Wesley Wright some chances, along with Felipe Paulino, but he's been relying on his normal stable of relievers in tight games.
Mills has said previously he needed to keep a close eye on the workload of Wilton Lopez, who had appeared in a career-high 62 games entering Monday, and closer Brandon Lyon, who worked in all four games of the Dodgers series.
If Lyon was deemed unavailable Monday, Mills said Matt Lindstrom would be used as the closer, which should be an easy transition considering Lindstrom saved 22 games before his lower back began giving him trouble and eventually put him on the disabled list.
Third-place race meaningful for Astros
HOUSTON -- The Astros entered Monday's game against the Brewers just 1 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee for third place in the National League Central division, which the Astros are well aware but not trying to put too much focus on.
"If we try to look at this game, this series as being more pivotal and start looking at more than playing the game, that's what we're going to stay away from," manager Brad Mills said. "We need to play good ball and worry about that first and then let the big picture take care of itself."
Houston was fifth in the division last year, its lowest finish in a division since ending sixth in the NL West in 1991. The Astros finished second four consecutive years (2002-05) before slumping to fourth in '07 and third in '08.
This will be their last series against the Brewers, who were swept in three games at Minute Maid Park from July 30-Aug. 1 and scored only two runs.
"It's not going to affect the way we play," Mills said. "No matter if we're playing a team like the Cardinals or the Phillies, we're always going to try to do something extra. We hope we're playing that way every time out."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.