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Astros must bounce back to stay alive in playoff chase

Sep 30, 2006 - 2:57 PM Houston (81-79) at Atlanta (78-82) 7:05 pm EDT

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Houston Astros have no more room for error.

The Astros will look to get their offense going again when they face the Atlanta Braves in the second game of a critical four-game series Saturday.

Houston had its season-high nine-game winning streak snapped with a 4-1 setback to the Braves on Friday. Combined with the St. Louis Cardinals' 10-5 triumph over Milwaukee, the Astros fell 1 1/2 games back in the National League Central Division.

Mustering just six hits in support of Roger Clemens, the Astros are now on the verge of elimination from the postseason as the Cardinals' magic number to clinch the division is two.

Seeking its 10th win in 11 outings, Houston will call upon rookie Chris Sampson (2-0, 2.10 ERA) for his third start of the season. The righthander pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in a 7-6 loss to Pittsburgh in 15 innings Wednesday.

The Astros, who managed less than three runs for the first time in 13 games Friday, will look to give Braves starter Lance Cormier (4-5, 5.00 ERA) more than he can handle.

The righthander has not pitched since September 20, when he allowed two runs, six hits and four walks in 6 1/3 frames of a 7-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. Cormier is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA lifetime in five appearances - one start - against Houston, which he will be facing for the first time this year.

Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones hit back-to-back homers for the Braves in Friday's win.

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