September 21-23, Houston Astros Series

The Astros make their first and only visit to SBC Park this season, and even though there won't be a Roger Clemens sighting on the mound, this series is highly anticipated because all of a sudden, the Astros are right back in the Wild Card race.

It's crunch time for the Giants, and they continue their last homestand by welcoming one of the most potent lineups in the league. A few months ago, the Astros were written off as a team with high expectations, but not so good results. However, now they're contending again, and this series may very well determine whether or not either team would play October baseball or not.

For the first game, Carlos Hermandez (1-2, 5.30) will pitch against Brett Tomko (10-6, 4.26), who has been the Giants' best pitcher as of late. Hernandez has only faced three Giants in his career. Marquis Grissom is 0-6 against Hernandez, Edgardo Alfonzo is 1-3, and Deivi Cruz is 0-1.

Against Tomko, who has held a 1.00 ERA in his past five starts, Jeff Bagwell is 12-33 with a double and five jacks. The former Giant, Jeff Kent, is 10-30 with four doubles, and Brad Ausmus is 6-21 with a homerun, but Lance Berkman is just 3-17.

In the second game, there will be a pitching match up of two of the most talented young arms in the league, with Roy Oswalt (18-9, 3.48) taking the mound against Noah Lowry (5-0, 4.09), who's never faced the Astros before in his career.

Michael Tucker is 4-11 against Oswalt, and A.J. Pierzynski is 3-5, but Cruz is just 1-9 and Alfonzo is 2-8. Pedro Feliz is 3-6 with a triple and a homerun, so look for him to start, but J.T. Snow is 0-4, so expect Feliz to start for either Snow or Alfonzo.

For the series finale, Brandon Backe (3-3, 4.45) will pitch for the Astros against the Giants' ace, Jason Schmidt (16-7, 3.24), who was rocked again in his last start. Only two Giants have faced Backe in the past, and both Tucker and Cruz are 0-1 against him. Craig Biggio is 12-36 against Schmidt with four doubles, and Ausmus is 7-21 with a jack. Carlos Beltran is 5-11 with a triple, but Berkman is just 1-11.

Brad Lidge (5-5, 2.08) has been solid for Houston, but he has only faced five Giants in his career. Grissom and Pieryznski are both 1-2 against him, and Alfonzo is 0-3.

One of the MVPs for the second half of the season is Dustin Hermanson (6-6, 4.16), who's still strong since taking over as the Giants' closer. However, the Astros have hit Hermanson well, including Bagwell's 9-24 with four doubles and two jacks, and Biggio's 9-22 with five doubles and a homerun.

Sara Kwan is a writer for Got a bone to pick? Just want to say hi? Hit me up:

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