The Houston Astros embark upon another home-stand when they begin a four-game series with the New York Mets tonight at 7:05 p.m. CST at Minute Maid Park.
Houston, entering the contest after a three-game sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be facing a Mets team that has lost two in a row.
Lefty Wandy Rodriguez will be taking the mound for the Astros in tonight's game, while New York's Jonathon Niese will be the southpaw on the hill for the Mets.
New York, however, is just one game under .500 (58-59) while Houston remains 14 games below that mark (51-65).
But the Astros are aiming to build upon their recent success at home, as the team hopes to continue a successful climb up the NL Central ladder.
And I'm really enjoying the youth and enthusiasm on this current Astros team, regardless of the club's overall record, with "veterans" like Geoff Blum, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn taking active roles both on the field and in the clubhouse.
In addition, I was recently interviewed by the Mets Gazette in regards to the Astros upcoming series with the Mets.
Below is a transcript of the questions asked and my responses:
Mets Gazette: What is the biggest story of your team this year?
Denton Ramsey: The biggest story for the Astros this season has to be, by far, the trades of longtime Houston players Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. The true results of this trade will take time, and very well may end up working out in the Astros favor if the young talent they received in return pans out in the majors. But losing Berkman (Yankees) and Oswalt (Phillies) has been the biggest story this season for the Astros.
Mets Gazette: Who has been your best player so far?
Denton Ramsey: The best player on the Astros this year has probably been Jeff Keppinger, Houston's second baseman. With 107 games and counting under his belt, the 30-year-old infielder is batting .286 this season with 28 doubles, five home runs, and 46 RBI.
Mets Gazette: What or who has been your biggest disappointment or worst player?
Denton Ramsey: Houston's biggest disappointment this season is most likely Carlos Lee. The veteran power-hitting outfielder has had quite a down season, and is currently batting just. 247 with only 15 home runs (through 111 games).
Mets Gazette: What are your team's strengths and weaknesses currently?
Denton Ramsey: The Astros current strengths are youth and speed, although one could also easily argue that "youth" could be a weakness. But so far for Houston, "youth" appears to be working.
And the team has always had speed: Including the lightening-quick Michal Bourn and the always hustling Hunter Pence (not to mention some of the up-and-coming rookies on the Astros current roster).
Houston's biggest weaknesses, meanwhile, revolve around two things: clutch hitting and starting pitching. The Astros need a solid rotation, and this season has been anything but that—especially after the trade of Oswalt—as this year has turned into a testing period of what’s to come in terms of Houston's rotation.
Clutch hitting, meanwhile, has been a problem for most of the season for the Astros; and that will only get better with practice, patience, and persistence. But the team appears to be heading in the right direction, regardless of the club's overall record of 51-65.
Mets Gazette: Your thoughts on the Mets and expectations for this series?
Denton Ramsey: The New York Mets enter the start of today's four-game series with the Houston Astros (51-65) just one game under .500 at 58-59. But the Mets have also lost two games in a row, while the Astros enter this evening's contest having won three straight in a recent home sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tonight's tentative matchup has a pair of southpaws facing one another when New York's Jonathon Niese battles Houston's Wandy Rodriguez.
As far as expectations for this upcoming series at Minute Maid Park, I believe the Astros will be happy with a spit of the series, although there is no doubt they are looking to build upon a three-game sweep and would love nothing more than to add another sweep to their bags.
In the same breath, the Mets could use this time in Houston to bounce back—and over the .500 mark—as New York is currently 10 games out of first place in the National League East.
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org