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08/20/09 11:00 PM ET

Bourn turning into star with Astros

Houston (59-62) vs. Arizona (54-68), 7:05 p.m. CT

HOUSTON -- On the basepaths and in the outfield, Michael Bourn has become Houston's very own human highlight reel.

After running wild against the Florida Marlins, Bourn will take aim at the Arizona Diamondbacks when the Astros open a three-game series on Friday. He has reached base safely in 14 straight games, the second-longest streak of his career. His longest spanned 23 games over two seasons -- Aug. 24, 2008 to April 28, 2009.

"Michael has shown really good strides this year," manager Cecil Cooper said. "Last year, we had some concerns, but he's been very good this year. We've asked him to be the guy to set the tone. In the first few weeks of the season, we hit him second or down at the bottom, but there came a time when we had to move him. It came more out of necessity, because Kaz [Matsui] got a little beat up and we had to move him up, but since that time [Bourn's] taken off."

One of the few true leadoff hitters in the National League, Bourn set a career-high in stolen bases with 46 this season, getting on base more than he has in past. His on-base percentage is the most improved in the Major Leagues, jumping 78 points to .366 this season from .288 in 2008.

"The big key for Michael is when he gets on base he creates havoc and difficulties for the opposition," Cooper said. "When he's on base we're a much better team. Let's face it, we are. He creates those situations where he steals a base or puts pressure on the defense and the pitcher. That makes them deal with the guys coming up behind him."

Bourn recorded his eighth multi-steal game of the season on Wednesday. In games in which Bourn has swiped more than one base, Houston has posted a 6-2 record.

The speedy outfielder is four stolen bases away from becoming the sixth player in Astros history to reach 50 steals. He would be the first Houston player to reach the mark since Craig Biggo in 1998. If he continues his pace, the 26-year-old has a realistic shot at breaking the Astros' single-season stolen base record of 65, set by Gerald Young in 1988.

"Michael is a good basestealer. He has great speed and reads pitchers pretty well," Cooper said. "He works at his craft and has a great burst. After the first two or three steps, he's at full speed. I don't know if he has world-class speed, but he's pretty dog-gone fast."

His speed hasn't just benefited Houston offensively, its helped the club out just as much in the field.

Playing in one of the more spacious center fields in the Majors, there isn't a ball hit in the air that his teammates and coaches think he can't get to.

"His defense continues to shine, and he just keeps getting better," Cooper said. "He's getting great jumps and breaks, and he's just a phenomenal defensive player."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt (6-4, 4.01 ERA)
Oswalt received his career-high 14th no-decision after allowing eight hits and five runs in six innings on Sunday against the Brewers in Milwaukee. He gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the first and another two-run homer to Prince Fielder.

ARI: RHP Yusmeiro Petit (2-7, 6.47 ERA)
Petit showcased his capabilities when he nearly no-hit the Pirates on Aug. 4. But that phenomenal start -- when he allowed just one hit and no runs in eight innings -- is looking more like an anomaly, at least at this stage in the 24-year-old's career. In two outings since, Petit has allowed 10 earned runs, 18 hits and four home runs in just eight innings. His 6.47 ERA is highest in the National League among pitchers who have thrown at least 60 innings.

Carlos Lee hit his 21st home run of the season Thursday night. He has hit 20-plus home runs in nine straight seasons and is on pace to hit .300 with 20-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs for the third consecutive season. Jeff Bagwell (1998-2000) and Moises Alou (1998, 2000-01) are the only other two Astros players to accomplish that feat.

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Up next
• Saturday: Astros (Brian Moehler, 7-9, 5.40) vs. Diamondbacks (Max Scherzer, 7-7, 4.00), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Astros (Bud Norris, 3-1, 4.05) vs. Diamondbacks (Jon Garland, 6-11, 4.42), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off-day

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