Manager Cecil Cooper used the same lineup Tuesday against the Cubs as he did during the opener, but the skipper warned that the batting order is a work in progress and subject to change. Against lefties, it's likely Pence will hit sixth, and because the Astros are facing Ted Lilly Wednesday, right-handed-hitting Jeff Keppinger will probably play third instead of Blum. With no need to mix up the righties and lefties, expect Pence to move up a notch, with Keppinger assuming the seventh spot.
Although the bottom of the order is a curious spot for someone with Pence's hitting potential, he put a positive spin on the situation, noting the RBI opportunities he had during the opener.
"I had a lot of baserunners on last night, so I had a chance to change the game for us," Pence said prior to Tuesday's game. "I like the opportunities I had yesterday, I like being in the lineup, and who knows what's going to happen throughout the year?"
While Brian Moehler is the scheduled starter for the finale between the Astros and Cubs, look for Russ Ortiz to make a cameo appearance in the middle innings. As the fifth starter, his turn in the rotation won't arrive until next Thursday, necessitating he work out of the bullpen to stay sharp.
Ortiz was warming up in the 'pen during the 10th inning Tuesday, and had the game continued, he would have pitched the 11th. Instead, Cooper will attempt to insert his right-hander into Wednesday's game, if the game situation allows.
"When we brought [Doug] Brocail in [in the 10th], I called down [to the 'pen] and said, 'If the game stays tied, [Ortiz] has the next inning,'" said pitching coach Dewey Robinson. "So we gave him a little more time than normal. He's new to [relieving], and it's a little chilly. So we're trying to do that for him."
HOU: RHP Brian Moehler (11-8, 4.56 ERA in 2008)
Moehler was the surprise of the rotation in '08, logging 11 wins after working himself into the rotation once the season started. Moehler originally was a fill-in for the injured Wandy Rodriguez, but he pitched so well that he maintained his starting job even after Rodriguez returned. Moehler ranked second in wins among Astros pitchers and third in games started last year. He recorded a five-game winning streak from July 9-Aug. 19, his longest since he won six straight in 2000. The Astros were 16-10 in his 26 starts last season, and he allowed four runs or fewer in 20 of those.
CHC: LHP Ted Lilly (17-9, 4.09 ERA in 2008)
Lilly set career highs in wins and strikeouts (184) last season and tied his career high with 34 starts. The lefty pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, making two starts. This spring, he's worked on getting his changeup going; it was one of the reasons he got off to a slow start last year, going 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA in six April starts. "We'll really find out where I am once the season kicks off," he said. "That counts the most. My goal is to make sure I'm prepared to get off to a good start."
So far, Cooper has not paired backup catcher Humberto Quintero with a specific pitcher. "We need to see this evolve," Cooper said. "Whether [Pudge Rodriguez] catches five days, off one ... we'll work out a system." ... The seven astronauts from NASA's STS-119 crew, which just returned from its mission to the International Space Station on March 28, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday's game with the Cubs. STS-119 was the 28th shuttle mission to the International Space Station and launched on March 15. ... Wednesday marks the 35th anniversary of radio announcer Milo Hamilton's famous call of Henry Aaron's 715th home run, and as a special tribute, a stretch of Hamilton Street that runs along the East side of Minute Maid Park is being renamed Milo Hamilton Way. The dedication ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. CT, and fans are encouraged to attend.
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Friday: Astros (Mike Hampton, 3-4, 4.85 in 2008) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 7-7, 5.15 in 2008), 7:15 p.m. CT
Saturday: Astros (Roy Oswalt, 0-1, 3.86) at Cardinals (TBD), 3:10 p.m. CT