Notes: Raining and pouring for Biggio
Astros veteran hopes brief period off can halt prolonged slump
ST. LOUIS -- How bad are things going for Craig Biggio these days? Even his batting practice sessions are getting rained out.
Biggio planned to hit early on the field several hours before the Astros' game with the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, but a small sprinkle and a greater threat of rain prompted the Cardinals groundskeeper to deny any activity on the field.
"It's par for the course right now," Biggio said with a chuckle.
Times are tough for the second baseman. He's in one of the worst slumps of his career, going hitless in his last 20 at-bats since doubling in the ninth inning on Sept. 2. He's hitting .103 (3-for-29) this month, dropping his season average to .248.
Biggio was not in Tuesday's starting lineup, and he won't be playing on Wednesday, either. Throughout the season, Biggio has rarely played afternoon games on the road, especially when they're coupled with an off-day. That gives him two full days to rest, a method managers use often with older players.
But the fact that manager Phil Garner is giving Biggio not two, but three days off in a row raised eyebrows. Garner emphasized that he is not benching Biggio and guaranteed that the second baseman will be back in the lineup on Friday when the team returns home for its 10-game homestand.
"When we get back home, it'll be just the same," Garner said. "He'll be back in the lineup.
"He's hit the ball good a couple of times on the road trip, and he's come up empty-handed for it. I think he's grinding a little bit, and sometimes, it helps a player to have a break from the grind."
Said Biggio: "He wants to rejuvenate me, giving me a breather and still use me to pinch-hit. That's what he said he wanted to do. It's crazy -- you hit some balls good, [opposing fielders] are standing there. You hit some bad, they're standing there. You can't catch a break. After a while, it's comical."
Biggio's hitting issues don't seem to affect him at home. He's hitting .309 at Minute Maid Park this year, but only .174 on the road. It's logical to wonder if the 40-year-old is simply tired, especially considering that he's batting .190 since the All-Star break.
"You'd think if he was tired on the road, he'd be tired at home," Garner said. "But he's certainly been hitting better at home than on the road. I think right now, he's really grinding, and one thing about Craig that we've known over the years is, he's not afraid of the grind or afraid to work. That's been a great trait of his. We feel right now this [rest] might help him a little bit."
Next year: Biggio hopes to reach 3,000 hits in an Astros uniform and feels confident that he and club owner Drayton McLane will come to an agreement on a contract extension in the near future.
Biggio is 84 hits shy of 3,000 and intends to play in 2007, whether it's in Houston or elsewhere. His agent, Barry Axelrod, has had one conversation with general manager Tim Purpura regarding a contract extension, and that was held in early August when the Astros were playing in San Diego.
"I haven't heard much since then," Biggio said. "We always have an open-door policy. It could be tomorrow, it could be the end of the year. It's their call, whatever they want to do.
"I am confident. We've had a good relationship over a 20-year career and have been able to get things done before. I'm confident that things will get done. It would be disappointing after all this time to have to move on."
Coin flips: In an unprecedented and stunning turn of events, the Astros actually came out ahead in Tuesday's coin flip session that determined home-field advantage in the event of a one-game playoff to determine the National League Wild Card representative.
The Astros, who have about an 18-percent success rate over several years of coin flips, won four of five. They'll host Cincinnati, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco if there is a need for a one-game playoff with any of those clubs.
The Astros will play at Florida should they have to meet the Marlins to decide who wins the Wild Card.
Familiar face: Preston Wilson held no animosity toward his former teammates, whom he faced as the leadoff hitter for the Cardinals in Tuesday's game at Busch Stadium.
Wilson was released in mid-August by the Astros, and after the club's unsuccessful effort to trade him, Wilson became a free agent and signed with St. Louis, one of Houston's fiercest division rivals.
Wilson downplayed any notion that he would feel extra incentive to perform well, considering he's playing the team that dumped him.
"I think if I did that and only raised my intensity for teams I played [for], then I'd be doing the team that I'm playing for a disservice," Wilson said. "I play with the same intensity no matter what."
Clemens ready: Roger Clemens, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 4 because of a sore right groin, is still on schedule to start Friday's game against the Phillies at Minute Maid Park.
"He threw today and reports say he's doing pretty good," Garner said. "He threw a normal bullpen session -- about 60 pitches."
Coming up: The Astros and Cardinals will conclude their three-game series during a Wednesday matinee, beginning at 1:05 p.m. CT. Astros righty Roy Oswalt (12-8, 3.15 ERA) will face Cardinals right-hander Jason Marquis (14-14, 5.66 ERA).
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.