Houston (75-67) at Milwaukee (62-80)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Milwaukee, WI
Temp: 37° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Mon Sep 8, 2003
  • TV: KNWS, FSNO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Locked in a three-way battle for the top spot in the NL Central, the Houston Astros are getting their ace back in time for the stretch run.

Roy Oswalt returns from his third stint on the disabled list this year as the Astros open a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

The right-hander is attempting yet another comeback from a right groin strain that has kept him out since July 30. He had two earlier stints on the DL with the same injury this year.

Oswalt will likely have to undergo surgery during the offseason to repair a torn sheath near the groin, but the Astros are hoping they can squeeze out at least four starts from him with 21 games remaining in the regular season.

Oswalt last pitched in Houston’s 6-3 loss to Atlanta on July 29. He allowed one run and two hits over two innings before aggravating the injury again.

“He hasn’t pitched in quite a while,” said manager Jimy Williams, who indicated that Oswalt will throw five innings or about 75-80 pitches.

“Even if he can pitch those four games, how sharp can he be with those breaking balls? Let’s go see. That’s why we play these games.”

The Astros had won four of five before Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the San Diego Padres dropped them into second place in the division, a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs.

Jeff Kent had two of the Astros’ four hits, including a solo homer in the fourth.

Milwaukee suffered a three-game sweep to the Cubs, including Sunday’s 10-2 loss. Bill Hall had an RBI double and Richie Sexson hit a solo homer for the Brewers, who have won 14 of 19.

STANDINGS: Astros - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Brewers - 5th place, 12 1/2 GB, NL Central.

ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Oswalt (6-5, 3.23 ERA). Oswalt is 4-3 with a 3.46 ERA and one shutout in eight career starts against Minnesota.

BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Wayne Franklin (10-11, 5.22 ERA). Franklin was 3-1 over four starts before Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The left-hander was reached for four runs and eight hits, including two homes, over five innings, striking out three and walking one. Franklin is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in four career appearances, including three starts, against Houston.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .307 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 32 HRs, 83 RBIs, 96 runs and 9 SBs. Brewers - Scott Podsednik, .318 avg., 86 runs and 36 SBs; Sexson, 38 HRs and 108 RBIs.

SEASON SERIES: Brewers, 5-4.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - OF Hidalgo is hitting .350 (21-for-60) over his last 16 games with 10 doubles, one homer and nine RBIs. … INF Geoff Blum is hitting .339 (21-for-62) with 13 RBIs over his last 22 games. … LHP Billy Wagner, the franchise leader with 220 saves, is one save shy of breaking his club mark of 39 saves, which he set in 1999 and 2001 before reaching the mark again Saturday. Brewers - Milwaukee has won five of its last six series. … INF Wes Helms is hitting .332 (71-for-214) with 14 of his 19 homers and 40 and his 58 RBIs at home this season. … RHP Dan Kolb has converted 16 straight save opportunities to establish the club’s NL record. The Brewers overall mark is 25 in a row set by Doug Jones in 1997, when Milwaukee was still in the AL.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 33-38 on the road; Brewers - 29-43 at home.

INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL. Brewers - LF Geoff Jenkins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Jayson Durocher (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Ford (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Nick Neugebauer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ruben Quevedo (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Todd Ritchie (shoulder), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Oswalt Col vs. W. Franklin KC
10-5 Record 10-13
2.97 ERA 5.50
108 K 116
29 BB 94
1.14 WHIP 1.52