Looking to bounce back from his worst start of the season, Roy Oswalt hopes to continue his domination of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday and help the Houston Astros beat their NL Central rivals for the first time this season.
Oswalt (8-6, 3.90) allowed nine runs—including a career-high eight earned — along with 10 hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-3 loss at Chicago on Saturday.
“It didn’t look like he pitched bad,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “We just couldn’t get out of innings without giving up runs.”
Oswalt doesn’t give up many runs to the Pirates, going 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA in six starts since last losing to them on April 25, 2005 at PNC Park. Oswalt is 10-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 20 appearances against Pittsburgh.
The Astros (40-55) lost Oswalt’s lone 2007 start versus the Pirates, 4-2 in 10 innings on opening day. He gave up a run and five hits over 7 2-3 innings in what turned out to be the first of Houston’s six losses in as many games against Pittsburgh this season.
The Astros scored only 14 runs in those six matchups. They had won the final six games between the teams in 2006 and won the season series 13-3.
Pittsburgh (40-54) enters this series on a season-high six-game losing streak, falling a season-worst 14 games under .500.
That’s still a half-game better than Houston, which has lost five of six since the All-Star break. All of those games have come on the road, where the Astros have lost 14 of 17 and are a major league-worst 16-33.
Oswalt looks for his first road win since beating Cincinnati on May 7, going 0-4 with a 6.97 ERA in five starts and a three-pitch relief appearance in the Astros’ 4-2 win on Tuesday at Washington. He is 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 10 appearances at PNC Park.
He will be opposed by Tom Gorzelanny (9-4, 3.24), who hopes to win four straight decisions for the first time in his career.
Gorzelanny, who has a 3.78 ERA over his five-start unbeaten streak, managed to escape without a decision despite surrendering three first-inning runs in his last start. He allowed four runs and six hits while tying a career high with seven strikeouts, lasting six innings in the Pirates’ 5-4 loss at Atlanta on Saturday.
The left-hander had lost all three of his starts versus the Astros before winning his only outing against them this season. He allowed three runs—two earned—and seven hits in five innings in a 5-4 victory on April 4 at Minute Maid Park.
Gorzelanny hopes Pittsburgh’s offense can get on track, having been held to 19 runs during the six-game skid. The Pirates have failed to total more than eight hits in seven of their last eight games.
“We’ve been playing really hard, so I think the day off we’re going to have (Thursday) is going to make ourselves relax and come back the next day and give our best,” catcher Ronny Paulino told the Pirates’ official Web site after Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to Colorado.
Among the Pittsburgh players struggling at the plate is Jason Bay, who has hit .143 in 36 games since June 4. Bay, though, has hit .346 (9-for-26) against Oswalt and teammate Jack Wilson has hit .368 (21-for-57).
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