Medic! Sustaining their impressive second-half surge just got a lot tougher for the Astros, considering injuries have taken a huge chunk from their pitching staff.
Oswalt strained his lower back in the second inning of Houston's 11-6 victory against the Cubs. Hawkins was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game because of a shingles and Wright went to a Chicago hospital after the game with a possible case of appendicitis.
Oswalt, who is flying back to Houston so team docs can check him out, said he has felt discomfort since his previous start on July 22.
"I didn't think it was anything major," said Oswalt, a three-time All-Star who won 17 games a year ago. "I went out there the first inning and felt OK, not great. I thought I might make it through five or six, but with this lineup, you have to go 100 percent. I started to throw 85, 90 percent to get through, and I said, 'You're going to have to let it go or come out.' "
Now, Oswalt says, he "can walk but can't do anything strenuous."
Such as pitching.
Hawkins, one of the NL's top setup men, probably will be suspended by Major League Baseball after healing from shingles, a painful virus that attacked nerve roots in his back. Before heading to the DL, Hawkins complained that umpire Mike Everitt "wanted" the Cubs to beat the Astros on Monday.
As for his injury, Hawkins — who cannot sit — says he has a "new, profound respect for people with back pain."
Oh, he's just excited about getting the victory. Nevermind.
Anyway. Wright, who had pitched well since returning from the minors, had the strangest day of all three pitchers. Before leaving Wrigley in an ambulance, Wright was called on by manager Cecil Cooper to relieve Oswalt.
He retired his first five batters before losing the ability to throw a strike. Wright had five walks in 2 2/3 innings — including a stretch of 11 balls in a row during the fourth inning. Maybe the appendix was starting to tingle.
The 'Stros were bailed out by the rest of their pen, along with Tejada, who drove in five runs to help break the Cubs five-game winning streak.