Oswalt tries to help the Astros avoid their worst start in 24 years as they continue their weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
In Friday night’s series opener, St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright pitched seven strong innings in his first career start, and Chris Duncan had a two-run homer and three RBIs to lead the Cardinals (1-3) to a 4-2 victory—their first win of the season after getting swept by the New York Mets.
“We needed to get off the snide and put a ‘W’ on the board, that’s the big thing,” said Wainwright, who made his first career start as a fill-in for injured ace Chris Carpenter. “I started, kept my team in the game, so, yeah, I’m happy.”
Although his team won, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols continued to struggle, going 0-for-3 to drop his batting average to .077 (1-for-13) through four games. The slow start is rare for Pujols, a .325 career hitter in April.
Meanwhile, Houston (0-4) remained winless. The Astros, who were held to two runs for the third time in four games, have dropped their first four contests of the season for the first time since 1990. They have not lost five in a row to open the season since the 1983 club went a franchise-worst 0-9.
“It’s like we’ve hit the dog days of April,” manager Phil Garner said. “We are just not having good at-bats at all.”
In an effort to end the skid, Houston sends the league’s winningest pitcher of the last several years to the mound. Since his 2001 major league debut, Oswalt (0-0, 3.04 ERA) has won 98 games, the most in the NL over that span. He went 7-4 last season when pitching after an Astros loss.
The right-hander pitched well Monday in his fifth straight opening-day start, allowing just one run and five hits in 7 2-3 innings against Pittsburgh, but did not record a decision as Astros closer Brad Lidge squandered a ninth-inning lead en route to a 4-2, 10-inning defeat.
Oswalt is 7-5 with a 3.33 ERA in 19 career appearances—18 starts—versus the Cardinals. Pujols is batting .309 (17-for-55) with three homers lifetime against him.
St. Louis counters with Anthony Reyes, who is making his season debut. The 25-year-old right-hander went just 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 starts in 2006, but went on to become a postseason hero.
With much of the team’s rotation worn out from a seven-game NL championship series against the Mets, Reyes earned the win in Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 21, pitching eight innings of a 7-2 victory over Detroit. That contest set the tone for a five-game series win and St. Louis’ first championship since 1982.
Reyes has not received a decision in two starts against the Astros, posting a 5.56 ERA in those outings.
Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds, who is still recovering from offseason shoulder and toe surgeries, missed his first game of the season but is likely to be back in the lineup Saturday.
“Right now, I want him playing two out of every three,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “Makes sense to play him tomorrow and the next day, try to work him back in shape.”