The Astros hope Oswalt can give them another strong start, after he helped Houston beat Milwaukee 8-4 in his first outing in more than a month.
“Oswalt really gave us a lift out there,” Houston’s Craig Biggio said. “He’s been gone for almost half of a season so it’s almost like getting a new pitcher in a trade.”
Oswalt, sidelined since July 30 due to a strained right groin, gave up four earned runs and five hits in five innings for his first win since July 18.
“I felt good out there,” Oswalt said. “I haven’t been out there in 40 days so I wanted to do well. I thought I threw a few good pitches out there. I feel good right now in terms of my arm and leg. Overall, it was a good outing.”
The Astros are a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, while St. Louis dropped 3 1/2 back.
The loss was disappointing to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa Tony La Russa.
“It was not a good time to have it, it was an embarrassing game,” he said.
Now, the Cardinals hope Matt Morris can keep up his strong pitching.
Morris pitched no-hit ball into the seventh inning in Sunday’s 9-0 win over the Reds. In his last three starts, Morris has thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings.
“Everybody wants to go out and throw a shutout, but we needed a win,” Morris said. “The situation we’re in, we’re not looking at personal goals anymore.”
Morris 2-0 with an 0.93 ERA in four starts since returning from the 15-day disabled list after a broken hand and sprained ankle sidelined him from July 21 to Aug. 23.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 3rd place, 3 1/2 GB, NL Central. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Morris (10-6, 3.58 ERA). Against the Reds on Sunday, Morris struck out eight and walked one in his third shutout and fifth complete game this season. He is 6-6 with a 3.99 ERA in his career against Houston.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Oswalt (7-5, 3.42 ERA). Oswalt is 0-2 with a 3.02 in his career against St. Louis.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .367 avg., 41 HRs, 121 RBIs and 126 runs; Edgar Renteria, 32 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .309 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 33 HRs, 100 runs and 10 SBs.; Lance Berkman and Bagwell, 87 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 7-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - RHP Morris is the first Cardinals pitcher to win at least 10 games in three straight seasons since Bob Tewksbury did it five years in a row from 1990-94. … The Cards have been held to two or fewer runs four times in 11 September games. … RHP Morris has 13 career complete games, six of them shutouts. He also shut out the Pirates on May 24 and the Cubs on May 19. He’s the first Cardinals pitcher to have three shutouts since Jose DeLeon and Joe Magrane each had three in 1989. Astros - OF Hidalgo leads major league outfielders with 21 assists. … RHP Octavio Dotel, who has been unavailable out of the bullpen the past six days with a strained left gluteus, is cleared to pitch as soon as Saturday. … Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros’ remaining opponents have a combined .501 winning percentage, while Cubs opponents are winning at a .441 clip, with Cardinals foes slightly ahead at .488.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 33-41 on the road; Astros - 43-29 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jimmy Journell (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL.