We dug ourselves an early hole -- at one point we were 10 games under .500 -- but we've worked hard as a team, and we're right back in contention now.

One of the big reasons we have been able to come back the way we have is that we didn't panic. For whatever reason, this organization has a well-deserved reputation for playing well in the second half. About six weeks ago, I remember telling a reporter we were aiming to get to .500 at the break. That's exactly what happened.

The reason we didn't panic was because we have a lot of veteran players here. Last year we did the same thing. I don't think we were at .500 a year ago at the break, but we didn't panic then, either. I think, because of that experience, we told ourselves we could do it again.

Getting back into this race has been a collective effort. Our bullpen, starters and our hitters have all contributed. When everyone is working together, it helps to win ballgames. You can't have good pitching and not have good defense. You have to have both. We've also had timely hitting and a good combination of speed and power.

Our home record isn't spectacular, and you obviously want to play well at home, but our ability to win on the road says a lot about our club's character. In the long run, I think we'll do our thing at home, too. We have to take the approach of winning every series, one at a time, home or away.

Our division is a free-for-all, which makes it a lot of fun. Five teams are still in this. In the NL Central, we play one another a lot and we beat up on one another. No single club dominates. That's why I don't think a team is going to run away with it.

Veteran right-hander Brian Moehler won his seventh game on Monday, allowing just two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings in the Astros' 3-2 victory over the Cardinals. Houston is 11-6 in July and has won three of five since the All-Star break.