If you haven’t been paying much attention to the 2008 edition of the Houston Astros, perhaps it would be a good idea to watching a game or two this week. There are quite a few new faces mixed in with last year’s holdovers that are beginning to jell as a major league baseball team.

We’ve heard quite a few old-timer baseball fans who say they just can’t get excited about the Astros or any other major league team this season. Well, just take the time to tune in to a game or two and we guarantee you’ll get to liking them real quickly.
Right now first baseman Lance Berkman is the hottest hitter in the major leagues. He is only the second player in major league history to reach base 21 times in five games. He did it last week. Ricky Henderson is the only other player to do that, and it happened some 25 years ago.

Berkman also became only the second major leaguer in the last 50 years to get 19 hits in 25 plate appearances. St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols is the other player to accomplish that feat and he did it between May 30-June 7, 2003.

If Lance had gone 1-for-3 instead of 1-for-4 Sunday in the series finale at Los Angeles against the Dodgers he would have become the first player to get 21 hits in 30 at-bats since Pete Rose did it back in September, 1979. Unfortunately his hit came on his final at-bat.

To say Lance Berkman is hot could be an understatement. He currently has a 10-game hitting streak and boasts a .629 batting average during the streak. In his first 29 plate appearances during the streak he has reached base 24 times. And so far for the month of May the Astros are 8-1.

For the young season Berkman is flirting with .400 batting average, has a .468 on-base percentage and sports a hefty .788 slugging average. He was named the National League’s Player of the Week on April 28. His career marks remain impressive with a .303 batting average with 271 home runs and 890 RBIs.

This Korner believes that Berkman’s sizzling streak can be directly attributed to the addition of shortstop Miguel Tejada to the team. Tejada bats third in Manager Cecil Cooper’s revamped lineup that has been so successful for the past three weeks with Berkman now in the clean-up position followed by RBI producers Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence.

Opposing teams can’t pitch around Tejada or Berkman now, and as a result, they are getting plenty of good pitches to hit. Miggy, as Tejada is referred to by the Houston sports media, currently is performing above his career averages in batting, on-base percentage and slugging.

Tejada, who signed as a teen-ager with the Oakland Athletics 15 years ago, seems re-vitalized since coming to Houston from the Baltimore Orioles where the management promised to rebuild their once-competitive franchise but never did.
American League baseball scouts who have monitored his major league career figured that at 33 years old Tejada’s skills as an All-Star shortstop and hitter had declined and that he would end up playing third base for the Astros.

But Tejada fooled them all and is performing like an excited rookie, wanting to play every inning of every game. Since he teamed up with Craig Biggio’s replacement, Kazuo Matsui at second base, the Astros lead the major leagues with 39 double plays. Houston also is the second-best team in fielding percentage and has only allowed six unearned runs to score this season because of it.

Tejada last weekend was batting .336 and .406 with men on base which ranks third for all major league shortstops and is first among shortstops in RBIs. He is also third in home runs and on-base-percentage. The error he committed Saturday night against the Dodgers was only his third of the season.

After winning five of six games on their recent home stand against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals, the Astros embarked on a long 10-game road trip that started with a 7-1 win Friday and a 5-0 shutout over the Dodgers Saturday night.

Houston hit a high-water mark with their come-from-behind 8-5 win over the Dodgers Sunday, putting the Astros four games over .500 at 21-17 and only 11/2-games out of first place in the NL Central Division.

It also marked the first series win for Houston in Los Angeles since 2003 and the first time the Astros swept a series in LA since Sept. 26-28, 1992. The Astros then moved on to San Francisco Monday and will conclude the road trip in Arlington against the Texas Rangers this weekend.

Most of the Houston Astros baseball games can be seen in Orange on Time Warner Channel 26 (FSN). However if the daily newspaper in Beaumont says TV-None for a particular game, you can rest assured it can be seen in Orange on Channel 15 (MY20).
KWICKIES…Congrats to Sunset Grove longtime golfer Ray Dal Sasso for recently making an eagle-2 on the Par-4 No. 17 hole at the Country Club. The 84-year-old Dal Sasso chipped his second shot into the hole from 75 yards out with a 9-iron.

Orange area athletes who fared well in last weekend’s state track meet in Austin include gold medal winner Jared Parker, who won the pole vault with a 15-feet, 9-inch effort in Class 4A, the West Orange-Stark 800-meter relay team of James Haynes, Seth Thomas, Trey Franks and Josh Gloston who won a silver medal and Bridge City’s Corey Smith who won a bronze medal in the 800-meters both in Class 3A and Deweyville’s Joe Dooley who won a bronze medal in the 880 in Class 2A.

The Lamar Cardinals’ lead over Northwestern State shrunk considerably after losing two of three to the Demons in Natchitoches last weekend. After winning Friday’s opener, Big Red lost to the Demons 9-5 Saturday and then 6-3 Sunday and now only lead Northwestern State by one-half game in the Southland Conference’s East Division. The Cards will try to get back on track in the SLC when they play McNeese State Thursday in Lake Charles .

Sergio Garcia, who lost his grip on the lead in the PGA Tour’s Players Championship after Saturday’s third round to Paul Goydos, won on the first extra hole Sunday when Goydos hit his shot into the water. Goydos could have won the tournament by sinking a short putt on the 72nd hole, but missed, forcing a sudden-death playoff.

JUST BETWEEN US…A tip of the Korner Kap to the Bridge City Cardinals for coming back from a Game One loss to Needville and winning the next two convincingly 8-1 and 9-3 to advance to meet the Jasper Bulldogs again this year in the third round of the state baseball playoffs. The Bulldogs nipped Bridge City last year and went on to win the Class 3A state championship. The site of the playoffs had not been decided at this writing, but hopefully some of the action will take place at Lamar’s Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont.