The Astros' much ballyhooed offense finally lived up to the hype on Monday in a 10-3 route of the San Diego Padres, as the home team broke through with a 13-hit attack during which nearly every hitter contributed at least one hit. The big winner was Miguel Tejada, who fell a triple shy of the cycle while recording his first four-hit game since August 2006.
Tejada, who was recently moved from the five-hole to the No. 3 spot, has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games and is batting .389 over that span.
"That's who we thought we were getting," Lance Berkman said. "He's been every bit as good as advertised. What can you say about the guy? He's hitting the ball great, he's playing good defense, he's a high-energy guy. He's been outstanding."
The game marked the first time this year the Astros scored double digits in runs, but Tejada said he wasn't all that surprised it took this long.
"I don't know if people realize the last six teams we played, the only team that's not a contending team is the Florida Marlins, and they're good," he said. "They're playing right now like they're a first-place team. We're playing some good teams. We've played a lot of close games, but today, we're happy to have the game we had and show everybody we have a good offense."
Berkman described the first inning as "textbook." That effort resulted in a five-run opening frame that brought 10 men to the plate against Padres starter Justin Germano.
Leadoff man Michael Bourn drew a walk on four pitches, stole second and moved to third on Kazuo Matsui's bunt single. Tejada singled home Bourn, and Berkman cleared the bases with his fifth homer of the year to give the Astros a four-run lead. Three batters later, Hunter Pence knocked a double to right, scoring Carlos Lee to give Roy Oswalt a 5-0 advantage heading into the second inning.
"This is the kind of the stuff I expected," manager Cecil Cooper said. "This is the type of offense, maybe not every night, but just the fact that we were able to get the table-setters on, steal bases, create a little havoc on the bases, set the other guys up. That's the kind of thing I like. The guys at the top are the ones that created all the action for us."
Bourn and Matsui both eventually scored each time they reached base.
"I know what I do is really helpful to their success," Bourn said, referring to the middle of the order. "If I'm on and Kaz is on, it's better for the offense. That's easier runs produced, it's better for the pitching."
Oswalt chuckled a bit when asked about the healthy five-run lead so early in the game. He recalled a conversation he had with Shawn Chacon during a recent game when the Astros were on the losing end of a 6-0 game after one inning.
"We were talking the other day, when the opposing pitcher got six runs, how hard it is to pitch with six runs in the first inning," he said. "Just because when you get behind hitters, you've got to come right back in the strike zone with a fastball and everyone knows what's coming. You don't want to walk a guy and put guys on. It's actually kind of tough when you get five in the first."
But Oswalt seemed unfazed by the run support. He yielded two home runs, both solo shots, plus a sacrifice fly during a 96-pitch, seven-inning outing.
After struggling through three ineffective outings to start the season, Oswalt has allowed a combined four runs over his last two, both in winning efforts.
"He told me a few days ago that my ace was back," Cooper said. "I'm going to ride him if he's ready."
Oswalt felt the turnaround begin in his prior outing in Philadelphia, when he held the Phillies to one run over seven frames.
"I think after the Philly game, I got command of my breaking pitches," he said. "When you have to pitch with one pitch every game, it gets tough. Once I got the breaking pitch back, I had two pitches I had to worry about and still had the velocity where guys had to respect the fastball, and I dropped a curveball in on them when I wanted to."
Encouraged by the offensive breakthrough, Oswalt hopes Monday's game was a sign of better days ahead for the 8-12 Astros.
"I think we're coming together as a team a little better," he said. "The last three or four games, we're doing little things to get runners home, moving guys around. I think we'll be OK. The biggest thing is getting the starters to go deep in the games, take a little stress off the bullpen."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.