|Astros return from another successful trip to face D-backs|
HOUSTON -- Even at this advanced stage of the season, with the Astros having long ago cemented their reputation as a dominant road team, their success away from Minute Maid Park remains stunning.
On Wednesday, riding the coattails of third baseman Alex Bregman and his historic performance, the Astros capped another winning road trip with a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers that completed a three-game series sweep. Combined with a series win in Boston last weekend, Houston finished 5-1 on its penultimate road trip of the regular-season schedule.
The Astros will open a nine-game homestand, their final one of the season, Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks with left-hander Dallas Keuchel (11-10, 3.59 ERA) on the mound.
The Astros (92-54) have posted four consecutive winning road trips, producing a .714 winning percentage (20-8) during that stretch.
Houston improved to 52-22 on the road with a seven-game trip remaining against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles to close the regular season. En route to winning the World Series last year, the Astros finished 53-28 on the road.
"Just a great road trip for us," said Bregman, who reached 100 RBIs and 100 runs this season in the victory and became the first third baseman in league history to post 30 home runs and 50 doubles in a season. "Some tough travel to deal with, but at the end of the day we grinded through it and found a way to win games. That's what this team is all about."
Keuchel is 3-3 with a 4.00 ERA in six career starts against the Diamondbacks. He did not pitch during the three-game series at Chase Field the first weekend in May, a set the Astros dropped.
Of note beyond the starting pitching matchup in the series opener is the recent work turned in by rookie right-hander Josh James, who is vying for a spot on the postseason roster after three impressive performances.
James appeared out of the bullpen twice during the road trip, logging 5 2/3 innings while allowing two runs, three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.
James made his big-league debut Sept. 1 during a start against the Los Angeles Angels.
"I know he's fresh since we're kind of using him in extended periods," said Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole, who picked up the win Wednesday, of James. "But for a guy that's been starting for a long time and then to be thrown into the fire in some extremely competitive games in Boston and (Detroit) ... it's a lot of maturity, it's a lot of composure."
Left-hander Robbie Ray (5-2, 4.18 ERA) will make his 21st start of the season for the Diamondbacks (77-70). He is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts this month, totaling 16 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. Ray is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in four starts against Houston.
The Diamondbacks continued their recent tailspin with a 10-3 loss at the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, falling to 3-9 in September.
Arizona was alone in first place in the National League West on Aug. 31 but dropped the final three contests of a four-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They fell into third place at the close of that series Sept. 2 and, after spending 110 days in first, are a season-high 4 1/2 games behind the Rockies with the loss.