All of the new players we have this season -- easily the most in my eight years with the Astros -- seem to be blending into a winning club. So we've been having a lot of fun in recent weeks.

I've never seen so many new players come in at one time, but I think we've brought in some good team players. We have a lively clubhouse. Last year, our team seemed to be sort of quiet. We didn't have many high-energy type of guys who get you real excited on the field.

That's changed this season. We now have some of those guys, and I think it really helps our team. We have a good mixture of high-energy guys and a guy like Darin Erstad, who has the intensity and focus of a football player, who plays really hard-nosed.

We're also on a pretty good run the last week or so. So it's been kind of a fun introductory period for all of us. During this winning stretch, the offense has been clicking, and we're starting to play better defense. Hopefully, with the pitching coming around, we can make a run for it in the NL Central.

The pitching staff has given up more home runs than we would like, but luckily they haven't been three-run blasts or grand slams. By limiting home runs to solo shots, we've been able to keep the score close and win some games in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Before we left on this road trip, we went 5-1 at home. Establishing some dominance at home will help us a lot over the course of the season. It plays as a small park sometimes, but it plays big sometimes, too, if you can get the opposition to hit it to center field.

Another key to our recent success has been Lance Berkman. He's really hot right now. He's been a great hitter for a long time, and it's largely gone unnoticed. It seems like he comes up big every year, and, even last year, when they say he had a down year, he still hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs.

If Lance had the career he has had so far in a larger market, his name would be all over the place. If he ever hit like this in New York or Boston, he would be the next president.

Three-time All-Star and Astros ace Roy Oswalt, a native of Weir, Miss., pitched eight innings against the Giants on Monday night for his fourth consecutive win. The Astros have won nine of 11 games in May and are challenging the Cubs and Cardinals at the top of the National League Central.