This Week In The NL Central – Perfect Time For Astros Revival

Almost overnight, the Houston Astros have to being feeling great about their chances of getting back to the World Series.

Roger Clemens was back in the fold Wednesday, ending his post-retirement drama by signing with the Astros for another year. The 43-year-old, who won his seventh Cy Young Award in 2004 (18-4, 2.98 ERA), was 13-8 with a 1.87 ERA last year, winning the major league ERA title for the first time since 1990.

It also helped that the Astros rallied to beat NL Central-leading St. Louis Tuesday night, getting into their bullpen and rallying for a 6-3 win.The Astros are within shouting distance right now, and the return of Clemens will do a lot to re-energize this team.

Rallying against the strong St. Louis bullpen was also huge. Nothing is more of a confidence booster than coming back to steal a win on the road, especially when every game against the division really counts as two. The St. Louis bullpen has been great in May. Closer Jason Isringhausen saved 10 in a row, and the bullpen hadn’t lost a game since May 2.

A game like that gives the Astros a boost and also puts a bit of doubt in the mind of the Cardinals. They aren’t feeling as comfortable these days, with

injuries starting to mount. Center fielder Jim Edmonds hasn’t started in four days because of a possible sports hernia, and ace Chris Carpenter is nursing a sore shoulder. He has missed two starts and is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Sunday. He may start Monday or Tuesday,but the Cardinals are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Get him back and keep him back,” Manager Tony La Russa said. “”That’s the goal.”

CUBS FEELING BETTER: Kerry Wood has his first win, and Mark Prior made a rehab start. That’ has optimism on the rise again in Chicago, despite the dismal May the Cubs have had.

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