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LAA@HOU: Cosart fans eight batters through 6 2/3

The Astros will return to their National League roots on Monday when they play their first game of 2014 in an NL park at Chase Field in Arizona.

Both the Astros and D-backs are stuck at the bottom of their respective divisions, but both have been playing strong baseball of late.

Houston entered Sunday averaging 4.6 runs per game over its last 14 contests, a stretch during which it went 10-4, while Arizona entered Sunday having won four of five. They will face each other four straight days -- twice in Arizona and twice in Houston.

In their effort to climb out of last place in the American League West, the Astros have received an offensive jolt from young players like George Springer, the AL Rookie of the Month in May.

As they look to stay hot against the D-backs, they will view any offense they get from their pitchers as a bonus.

"They've been hitting [in batting practice] the last 2 1/2 weeks," manager Bo Porter said of his pitchers' preparations for NL play. "They've been swinging the bat, they've been bunting, they've ran the bases. They are an offensive threat in the lineup the next two days, but I would much rather it be first and second with nobody out."

The Astros were in the NL for 51 years before moving to the AL to start the 2013 season. Porter, who has experience coaching in both leagues, knows that the strategy in NL parks is somewhat different.

"In a National League game, the biggest difference is the pitcher is in the lineup," he said. "Sometimes in an American League game, you can actually go with a guy much longer because you're not dealing with the decision of, it's the sixth inning, it's the bases loaded, there's two outs, the pitcher is due up, this is maybe your best offensive shot -- and you feel the need to hit for that guy at that moment."

Houston's starting pitcher on Monday is Jarred Cosart, who has never hit in the Majors. Since allowing seven runs in one-third of an inning April 18 in Oakland, the right-hander is 3-3 with a 2.96 ERA over his last eight starts. He's allowed three runs or fewer in each of last eight outings.

Cosart will face D-backs righty Josh Collmenter, who is two starts removed from the best performance of his career. Collmenter faced the minimum against the Reds on May 29, twirling a three-hit shutout.

He faltered in Colorado on Wednesday (five innings, four runs), but he's had success in his career against the Astros, going 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three outings.

Astros: Recent callup Owens heading home
The trip to Arizona represents a homecoming for left-hander Rudy Owens, who was called up Sunday. He made his Major League debut May 23 in Seattle and was promptly sent back down.

Owens had a handful of family members pile into a van and drive to Seattle for that game, and he expects a big contingent of friends and family members at home. He was born and raised in Arizona, attending Mesa High School, and he followed the D-backs growing up.

"I'm excited to go back home to Arizona, and I know a lot of my family is going to be at the games and stuff," Owens said. "That's going to be a good time, to get home and see all my family. And they'll be all excited to see me out on the field.

"If I could get tickets and have them all be together so it's one big cheering section, that would be great too," he added.

Owens allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings in his lone big league appearance.

D-backs: Chavez dealing with knee discomfort
Third baseman Eric Chavez could be heading to the disabled list soon as he deals with a nagging left knee issue.

Chavez hurt the knee in a Spring Training game one day before the D-backs left for Australia.

"I'm having trouble driving off my back side and keeping all my weight on my back side," he said. "It's been bothering me for a while, so we'll get through [Sunday's] game and talk about a course of action."

Backing up starting third baseman Martin Prado, Chavez is hitting .246 with three home runs in 80 plate appearances.

Manager Kirk Gibson said Nick Evans and Didi Gregorius could serve as backups to Prado if Chavez goes to the DL.

Worth noting
• D-backs outfielder David Peralta, who was called up on June 1, entered Sunday 10-for-24 (.417) over the first six games of his Major League career.

• Shortstop Jonathan Villar returned to the Astros' lineup Sunday after missing four straight games with a bruised right elbow, going 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run. Comments