Astros, Bonds both pursue two

Posted: Tuesday, October 02, 2001

HOUSTON -- The magic number for both Barry Bonds and the Houston Astros is two.

Two more home runs will give Bonds 71 for the season, breaking the record of 70 set by St. Louis' Mark McGwire three years ago.

Any combination of Astros victories or San Francisco losses totaling two will give the Astros at least the NL wild card spot. Houston has a one-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central.

Bonds and the Giants come to Enron Field on Tuesday night to begin a three-game series that is a makeup of their Sept. 11-13 series, postponed by the terrorist attacks.

While Bonds tries to complete his quest for the home run record, the Astros will be trying to snap out of a late-season swoon and win their fourth divisional title in five seasons.

The Astros' magic number for winning the division is six. Any combination of six Astros victories or St. Louis losses would give Houston the title.

A few games back, it looked like a cinch for the Astros, who held a 5 1/2-game lead. But injuries to pitcher Roy Oswalt and a lack of hitting has brought the Cardinals back into the picture.

Oswalt came up from the minors this season and became one of the Astros' most dependable pitchers, but he's sidelined by right groin injury.

He probably won't be able to pitch until the playoffs.

Oswalt wants to pitch to get the Astros into the playoffs.

''If we have to have a win toward the end of the season, I want to be out there,'' Oswalt said. ''If we clinch, I want to have as much time as I can so it doesn't hurt when I go out there.''

Oswalt re-injured his groin in Friday night's start against the Cubs, leaving general manager Gerry Hunsicker wondering if Oswalt returned from the injury too soon.

''We have only one more bullet and I want us to do our due diligence and see where we go from there,'' Hunsicker said. ''I think it's prudent to review the decision-making process, try to learn from the experience and see if there's something that we overlooked or could do differently.''

Poor hitting has marked the Astros' slide. In the just completed four-game series with the Cubs, the Astros hit .205. In their three-game losing streak, the Astros have stranded 26 runners.

Moises Alou and Lance Berkman have remained among the NL batting leaders but Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have cooled off.

In their past seven games, Bagwell has gone 3-for-24 with three RBIs and one home run. Biggio is 5-for-24 with two RBIs.



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