April 26, 2015

Considering the way Houston is hitting and Dallas Keuchel is pitching, the Astros appear in good position to conclude an already stellar trip on a positive note.

Looking to set a club record for the best 12-game road start, the AL West-leading Astros can sweep the reeling San Diego Padres with a sixth straight win Wednesday.

Houston (13-7) hit .202 and averaged 2.8 runs while splitting its first 12 contests before scoring 7.4 and batting .288 to go 7-1 on this nine-game trip. With three home runs and 17 hits during Tuesday's 14-3 rout of San Diego (11-11), the Astros have gone deep 13 times on the trek, scored at least nine runs in three of the last four games and recorded 10 or more hits in six straight.

Winners in nine of 10, Houston looks to go 10-2 on the road for the first time while trying for its first series sweep at Petco Park.

''There is a lot of energy, a lot of confidence,'' manager A.J. Hinch said. ''We've been playing good baseball, not error-free. But this brings a lot of smiles. Winning really does bring a togetherness to this group.''

Jose Altuve had four hits and George Springer drove in five runs as Houston handed San Diego its sixth defeat in seven games.

The Astros didn't skip a beat after learning Tuesday that shortstop Jed Lowrie would be out until after the All-Star break with a torn ligament in his thumb. He was hitting .300 with four homers and 10 RBIs.

Batting .467 with six RBIs in the last six games, Altuve can certainly carry the offensive load.

''Everybody has been moving in the right direction,'' said Evan Gattis, who homered Tuesday. ''It's good that we are all coming together and coming together at the same time.''

The Astros should feel even more confident behind Keuchel (2-0, 0.62 ERA), who hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings over his last two starts. The left-hander gave up two hits in nine innings during Friday's 5-4, 11-inning win over the Athletics, but wasn't satisfied after walking two more batters to raise his total to 11.

"It was just real spotty command," Keuchel said. "I'd like to kind of clean that up early in the game. That's not my M.O."

In his only previous outing versus San Diego on June 28, 2012, Keuchel allowed a solo homer and three other hits in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-3 loss.

He was opposed that day by Andrew Cashner (1-3, 2.63), who gave up two runs and struck out nine in 6 1-3 innings of his only start versus Houston.

Half of Cashner's 14 runs allowed this season have been earned, including both over seven innings of a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. Despite the defeat, the right-hander has a 1.44 ERA while allowing two or fewer earned runs in 20 straight starts at Petco Park.

"I liked his mix of pitches," manager Bud Black said. "Cash has three quality pitches. ... You can't depend on one pitch, even if the fastball with Cash is a good one."

In the four games since Cashner's last start, Padres pitchers have allowed 11 home runs while posting an 8.00 ERA.

Batting .320 at home, Wil Myers is 1 for 3 with two walks and two strikeouts versus Keuchel.

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