HOUSTON -- Kevin Cash made his 12th start at catcher Thursday and admitted he's appreciative of the playing time he's been getting since he had his contract purchased from Triple-A Round Rock on May 5.

"I definitely can't complain about the opportunities I've been given," he said. "Ever since I've been here, I've been catching two, three, four times a week, depending on how the rotation was set up. I think I took about an 0-for-16 start [at the plate] and that's tough to come back from, but with the more at-bats you get the better chance of getting out of that rut."

Cash, a career .186 hitter prior to this year, entered Thursday hitting .161 for the Astros. He was 5-for-19 in his previous six starts, though. He's caught Brian Moehler twice, Brett Myers six times, Felipe Paulino three times and Bud Norris once.

"We're definitely not there yet, but I'm much more comfortable," he said. "Hits cure a lot of things, and when you're getting hits and getting on base, good things can happen. It's been fun catching those guys and that's what keeps you sane and focused at the same time, that you have this other job to do also."

Cash hit his first home run as an Astro in the second inning Thursday against the Nats.

Astros' big three coming around

HOUSTON -- Slowly but surely, there are signs Astros sluggers Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence have put their early-season woes behind them. And not just because they each had a single in the first inning of Thursday's game.

Berkman was hitting .277 in his previous 23 games prior to Tuesday and had reached base safely in 22 of those games, Lee was hitting .300 (9-for-30) with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs in his last six games, and Pence was hitting .348 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in his last 23 games.

"I knew at some point guys were going to start hitting, and I figured that if we could continue to get the good pitching we've been getting and if we start hitting a little bit, we're going to win some games," Berkman said. "That's my reason for optimism, that's my reason for saying this is a better team than the record indicates, because I know at some point we're going to hit. If we just keep pitching, we're going to put something together."

Berkman began the season on the disabled list and missed the first 12 games of the season. He feels like he is regaining his timing at the plate.

"It's up and down, but I feel like I'm generally trending upward," he said.

Blum heartbroken for Joyce

HOUSTON -- Veteran infielder Geoff Blum said Thursday he felt badly for umpire Jim Joyce, who admittedly blew a call at first base in the ninth inning of Thursday's game between the Tigers and Indians that cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

Joyce apologized to Galarraga after the game and was fighting back tears when he came out for the lineup card exchange at home plate prior to Thursday's game.

"It's heartbreaking to seek Jim Joyce, who's one of the better umpires and one of the more liked umpires, to have that happen to him," Blum said. "I know he's heartbroken over it. I'm also appreciative of how Galarraga handled it. He was great and showed an amazing amount of poise and courtesy. That was impressive to see, and I appreciate the heck out of that, but I definitely don't want instant replay more than we already do."

Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said mistakes are part of the game and maintains an expansion of replay isn't a pressing issue.

"Blown calls happen all the time," he said. "It's not an uncommon occurrence, and these guys are the best in the world at what they do. People make mistakes. I don't think it's a poor reflection on umpiring. It's a lot tougher than people realize because the game happens so fast.

"Things happen so quickly and many times in a baseball game the whole outcome rests on one call, so it's important to get them right. But baseball has survived 150 years without [replay] and will probably be around, if the world is, in another 150 years."