Oswalt will try to become the NL’s first four-game winner on Sunday when the Astros close out a three-game set with the first-place Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Houston (9-7) lost 6-4 on Saturday, ending its streak and dropping one half-game behind the Brewers (10-7) for the NL Central lead.
A two-time 20-game winner, Oswalt allowed one run and six hits in 6 1-3 innings on just three days’ rest in Houston’s 6-1 win over Florida on Tuesday. The right-hander improved to 9-0 in his last 12 starts since losing to the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 14.
“That was vintage Roy,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “He did a masterful job.”
Unlike last season when the Astros struggled to produce runs consistently behind Oswalt, they have scored 20 runs in his last three starts.
“It’s a big plus,” said Oswalt, who is 11-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts against Milwaukee, including two wins in 2006. “Once you get a cushion, you can kind of just go right after guys. Before then you kind of have to pitch with caution to not give up too many runs.”
While Oswalt has pitched well against the Brewers, he’ll have to try and stop the Brewers’ J.J. Hardy.
Hardy went 2-for-3 with two homers and three RBIs, giving him four homers and eight RBIs in his last three games while hitting .538 (7-for-13).
“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Hardy, who has five homers in 2007 after hitting 14 in his first two seasons. “I’m happy. I had a couple pitches I could turn on. I’ve been feeling good in the batter’s box.”
The third-year shortstop is the first Brewer since Geoff Jenkins from May 19-21, 2003 to hit four homers in three games.
“I think he can hit 20, 25 (homers) a year, maybe more,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said of Hardy.
Hardy, who played just 35 games last season because of an ankle injury, has one hit in just two at-bats against Oswalt.
Dave Bush (1-1, 5.82) will take the ball for Milwaukee to close the series. Bush allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings, but did not record a decision in the Brewers’ 11-5 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday.
The right-hander has been solid against Houston, going 2-0 with a 2.17 ERA in four career starts last season with both wins coming at home.
Playing his second game against his former team, Houston’s Carlos Lee went 1-for-5 with a two-run single but grounded out with two runners on in the top of the ninth to end the game. Lee is 2-for-9 in the series.
Lance Berkman went 0-for-2 for Houston on Saturday, snapping his modest three-game hitting streak. Berkman is hitting just .204 this season, but is 6-for-12 with a double against Bush.
Following this contest, Houston—3-1 on a nine-game road trip—heads to Philadelphia to make up a game against the Phillies that was rained out on April 15.