Houston (46-48) at Arizona (31-65)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 6:05 pm EDT Thu Jul 22, 2004
  • TV: KNWS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Roy Oswalt insisted during the All-Star break that despite their disappointing first half, the Houston Astros could still make a run at a playoff spot. Thus far, he hasn’t done much to help their cause.

Oswalt will try to recover from his worst outing of the season when the Astros complete a two-game series with the hapless Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark.

Picked to seriously challenge for the NL Central title after acquiring Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens in the offseason, the Astros have instead wallowed near the bottom of the division since June.

“Right now, to get back to the postseason, we need to play better,” Oswalt said during the break. “We have a good team here. We are pretty far back in the Central Division at this moment, but we also have a good chance for the wild card. We can catch St. Louis, though, if we gain a game a week. It’s probably going to come down to the wire.”

Oswalt didn’t back up his words in his first start after the break, surrendering a season-high seven runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 7-4 loss to San Diego. The right-hander has lost consecutive starts following a season-high four-start winning streak.

Saturday marked just the second time in Oswalt’s career that he allowed at least seven runs.

“We’re scuffling right now,” Oswalt said. “I was feeling pretty good for two or three innings, then I kind of got some fastballs up.”

Oswalt will have a tough act to follow after watching Pettitte pitch eight brilliant innings in Wednesday’s series-opening 5-2 win. Carlos Beltran and Craig Biggio homered to back Pettitte as Houston ended a two-game skid and won for just the second time in its last seven overall.

Despite the victory, the Astros remained 14 games behind first-place St. Louis in the Central.

Steve Finley hit a two-run homer for Arizona, which owns the worst record in the majors. The Diamondbacks have lost 10 in a row—one shy of the team record set from June 18-29.

Arizona is 2-15 since Al Pedrique took over for Bob Brenly as manager.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Oswalt Col vs. E. Gonzalez Cin
20-10 Record 0-9
3.49 ERA 9.32
206 K 31
62 BB 18
1.24 WHIP 1.94