PHILADELPHIA - If the Houston Astros got together their former players scattered throughout the postseason, they might be able to field their own contender.
The Phillies feature former Houston outfielder Hunter Pence, starting pitcher Roy Oswalt and reliever Brad Lidge. Across the diamond in the National League Division Series, one of the St. Louis Cardinals' best players is outfielder Lance Berkman.
Berkman faces those former teammates in the best-of-five series, which is tied at one game apiece after St. Louis' 5-4 win Sunday.
Their history goes back to 2004 and 2005 when Oswalt, Lidge and Berkman played in the postseason with Houston. Those were among the best teams in Astros history. The 2005 team made it all the way to World Series but lost to the Chicago White Sox.
"We're in situations like this together, and that will really bind you closely," Berkman said. "I think a lot of all three of those guys and certainly Roy and Brad. We have that history together. Roy and Lidge are two of my all-time favorites, and we played a lot of years together in Houston."
Pence showed up in Houston two years later, full of life. The four spent 2007 on the Astros team that finished 73-89, fourth in the National League Central.
The next season, former Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade took the same job with Houston. Wade began to trade away the best of the Astros. Eventually, Pence found himself without stars around him and on a team that lingered in last.
However, for the third time in the past four years, Wade made a trade with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro and sent the Astros' best player to Philadelphia this summer.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind for me," said Pence, who left a team that finished 56-106 for baseball's worst record by seven games.
Pence noticed a difference between Houston's and Philadel-phia's clubhouses right away.
"The main difference here, there are a lot of people watching a lot of film. Little things going on," Pence said. "There is a lot to learn. Everyone is just professional veterans. Quiet, going about their business, but willing to help if you have questions."
Pence gravitated toward Oswalt and Lidge when he came to the Phillies. He talked to them about expectations of the team.
What exactly did Lidge tell him?
Lidge told Pence about the differences when he arrived in Philadelphia in 2008.
"There was an element of confidence I haven't seen before. There was a swagger here," Lidge said. "I played with some great players, too. This is fun to be a part of."
But then Pence started to look around the league and noticed a trend.
Former Astros reliever Octavio Dotel is a teammate of Berkman with the Cardinals. Starter Randy Wolf, who pitched for both the Phillies and Astros, and reliever LaTroy Hawkins now play for Milwaukee. Arizona infielder Geoff Blum, Detroit closer Jose Valverde and Texas reliever Darren Oliver also spent time with Houston.
"Seems like there is a lot of us (former Astros) running around on all sorts of different teams doing well," he said.
Having played with Pence for three years in Houston, Berkman, the Cardinals' left fielder, knew what Philadelphia was getting in its midseason trade.
Pence is a hyper player who feeds positivity to those surrounding him.
"I think Hunter has been a big addition for the Phillies," Berkman said. "His energy and passion for that is something - you're talking about a veteran team over here, and they've been to a lot of postseason games and they've experienced a lot. Having that infusion of newness with Hunter out there is big."
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