Oswalt, who was still considered the ace of a staff despite the additions of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte in the offseason, stumbled to a 4-6 start due to his own ineffectiveness and a nagging rib injury.
While Oswalt struggled, the Astros also failed to live up their lofty preseason billing, falling out of serious contention in the NL Central while joining the logjam of teams bidding for the NL wild card.
Oswalt, however, has made a strong comeback during the last six weeks, winning six of eight starts while allowing three runs or fewer in all but two of those outings. On Tuesday, he earned his second straight win, allowing two hits over seven scoreless innings in a 10-3 victory over Arizona.
“He was throwing his fastball 95 or 96 and then he comes in with that 71 mph curveball,” Arizona’s Scott Hairston said of Oswalt, who retired 14 straight batters after a leadoff single in the first.
“I think he even threw one 68. That’s hard to adjust to. He keeps the hitters off balance.”
Oswalt struck out five and walked one, reaching double digits in wins for the fourth time in as many big league seasons. He has also mastered the Reds during his career, going 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 career appearances, including 10 starts.
Despite Oswalt’s resurgence, the Astros have continued to underachieve. On Saturday, they split a pair of games with the Reds, dropping a 3-2, 13-inning decision in the completion of a game suspended by rain Friday night before bouncing back with an 8-0 victory in the regularly scheduled contest.
Even Houston’s win was clouded by disappointment, however, as Pettitte was scratched from his start due to a sore elbow that has derailed his first season in Houston.
Darren Oliver picked up his slack in his first start for the Astros, combining with three relievers on a four-hitter as Houston climbed back to .500, remaining one game in front of the Reds for third place in the Central.
Jason LaRue doubled home the winning run in the 13th for Cincinnati in the first game.