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07/01/08 12:09 AM ET

Astros eye second-half surge

Houston (40-43) vs. Los Angeles (38-44), Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. CT

HOUSTON -- Following their 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday, the Astros have won three series in a row for the first time since May 6-15.

It's a big deal for a team that went 9-22 before getting its next series win -- against Tampa Bay on June 20-22 -- a stretch that included an eight-game losing streak. And it's big for a team that is 10 games out of first place with a .476 winning percentage.

The most recent series win coincides with the midway point in the season, which fell on Saturday, making it a good time for the team to reflect on its performance in the first 81 games.

"It seems like it's been either feast or famine with us," Lance Berkman said. "We've had some really good stretches where we've played up to our capabilities, and we've had some stretches we'd like to forget about. I don't think at this point we've established ourselves as being either a good team or a bad team. I think this first half is inconclusive."

Despite the team's recent ugly streak, Houston did beat the best team in the American League and the defending World Series champions.

The Astros won six straight games in April and took eight series before the skid.

Outfielder Darin Erstad said the team never panicked, even when fans and media did. He said he has never looked at where his team is in the standings or where it will be at the end of the season.

"It was such a roller-coaster ride through my first years that you learn to worry about the things you can control," Erstad said. "If you look at the big picture, it can be overwhelming, so you focus on what you can do to get the job done today."

"Today," as Erstad referred to it, the pitching has improved and the bats are starting to heat back up, a formula, manager Cecil Cooper said, for success.

"Any time you win, I think the main ingredient has to be defense and pitching," Cooper said. "Anytime you have success like that, you will be a little more positive. We've been pitching well and playing well, and I think that's what makes us all positive."

Miguel Tejada, who batted .213 in June after a .339 start to the season, said given the length of the season, he never worried the Astros would pick back up.

"It's hard to do good the whole year," Tejeda said. "It's a long season with too many at-bats. I come to the park to play baseball every day, and whatever happened yesterday is over. Today is a new day, and I feel like the season starts today. I don't worry about the day before."

Berkman said the three series wins were crucial, however, in re-energizing the team because they cannot get back to .500 without them. They'll need two more wins against the Dodgers to win consecutive series No. 4.

"It's unrealistic to think that we're going to win 12 in a row," Berkman said. "A much more realistic way to approach it is to say, 'Hey, we're going to try to win as many series in a row as we can.' We've put ourselves in a position now where we've got our work cut out for us the second half -- not saying that we can't do it, because I think we can. We just have to be a lot more consistent in the second half."

Pitching matchup
HOU: LHP Wandy Rodriguez (3-3, 2.58 ERA)
Rodriguez tied a career-high with nine strikeouts in his last start, a 7-2 win over the Rangers. The lefty held the top scoring offense in baseball to a run on five hits in eight innings. Rodriguez has allowed two earned runs or less in seven of 10 starts. His ERA at Minute Maid Park over the last two seasons is 2.64. Rodriguez is 2-1 with a 2.29 in four career games (three starts) against the Dodgers.

LAD: LHP Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 4.36 ERA)
Kershaw continues to have the command problems to be expected for a 20-year-old. He issued two leadoff walks to the White Sox in his last start and both scored. He was lifted after four-plus innings, still winless, but all indications from manager Joe Torre were that the left-hander would remain in the rotation. Kershaw has issued 22 walks in only 33 innings and eight of the 16 runs he's allowed have reached base via walks.

Kazuo Matsui is expected to play July 7. The second baseman was placed on the disabled list June 24 with a strained right hamstring he suffered two days earlier in an at-bat against Tampa Bay. "He's taken batting practice, he's taking fielding practice -- he's doing everything," Cooper said. ... The Astros are still in negotiations with Jason Castro, their first pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. General manager Ed Wade said director of amateur scouting Bobby Heck spoke to the catcher's agent over the weekend, but the club has not come to terms with the No. 10 overall pick.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Astros (Runelvys Hernandez, 0-1, 5.40) vs. Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda, 3-6, 4.04), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Astros (Brandon Backe, 5-8, 5.12) vs. Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 7-7, 3.38), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Friday: Astros (Brian Moehler, 4-3, 3.82) at Braves (TBD), 6:30 p.m. CT

Krysten Oliphant is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.