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Ghost Stories: Astros at Phillies, April 13-15

April 13: Astros 9, Phillies 6 WP: Roy Oswalt (2-0) LP: Brett Myers (0-2) S: Wheeler (2)
April 14: Phillies 8, Astros 5 WP: Hamels (1-0) LP: Williams (0-2) S: Gordon (2)
April 15, 1:35pm: POSTPONED

For more on the Astros, please visit our SBN sister site Crawfish Boxes

Sometime in 2004 or 2005, the Houston Astros elbowed aside the Florida Marlins as the team that haunts the collective subconscious of Phillies fans. While we all remember the events of September 7, 2005--a day that will live in infamy--that was merely the last of an astonishing 12 straight defeats the Astros inflicted upon the Phils over a two-season stretch. Even last year, when the Phillies won the season series 4 games to 2, Houston dealt a crippling blow to the club's playoff hopes with a 5-4 comeback win on Sept. 25 that dropped the Phils out of the wild-card lead.

While dumb luck, bad bounces and some questionable managerial moves all contributed to the Astros' recent dominance over the Phillies, the biggest reason for their success in 2004-2005 was Houston's rotation troika of Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte, who combined to pick up 8 of those 12 wins. Whatever hopes the 2007 Phillies have for shaking off their latest awful start reside with their own top three starters: Brett Myers, Cole Hamels and Freddy Garcia. With Garcia set to return from the disabled list on Sunday, the theoretical Big Three have their first shot to show what they can do against the Astros this weekend.

They go against a Houston lineup that has struggled badly in the early going, with star hitters Lance Berkman (.590 OPS) and Carlos Lee (.737) in the same boat as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Lee actually has the second-best OPS among Astros regulars; Chris Burke, Craig Biggio and Morgan Ensberg are all below .650, and no Astros hitter has more than one home run on the season. As with the Phillies, Houston's best bats will come around--just, hopefully, not yet.

On the pitching side, though Pettitte has gone back to the Yankees, and Clemens might or might not follow him, Roy Oswalt remains, and he goes for his 100th career win against Myers tonight. Oswalt has been even better against the Phils than he has overall, with a career 4-1 record and 1.38 ERA in six appearances. Jason Jennings, who opposes Hamels on Saturday, hasn't fared as well: he's 1-3 with a 7.96 ERA in six career starts facing Philadelphia. 40 year-old Woody Williams is scheduled to pitch Sunday, though bad weather is forecast; it's faintly surprising that Williams will dress in the visitors' clubhouse, given that he began his pro career as a 28th round draft pick of Pat Gillick's Toronto Blue Jays back in 1988.