Washington (57-70) at Houston (57-70)

Fair Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Thu Aug 23, 2007
  • TV: MASN2, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

It took a month of relief work before Roy Oswalt got an opportunity to start for the Houston Astros. With Oswalt hurting, Juan Gutierrez’s chance to join the rotation has come sooner than expected.

Gutierrez will make his first major league start as the Astros try for a split of their four-game series with the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.

Oswalt left his start Saturday in San Diego with a strained left oblique muscle, and Houston’s ace will miss his scheduled outing Thursday. Gutierrez (0-0, 4.50 ERA), whose first two major league appearances were in relief, will fill in for Oswalt.

Oswalt made eight relief appearances as a rookie in 2001 before joining the Astros’ rotation. Now, Gutierrez will try to make the same transition.

“Gutierrez is our No. 1 choice,” Garner told the team’s official Web site. “(Triple-A Round Rock manager Jackie Moore) tells me he’s got a little bulldog in him.”

Gutierrez’s last appearance was against Washington on Monday night in the series opener when he allowed one run and two hits in one inning of a 7-0 loss. He went 5-9 with a 3.96 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 24 games for Round Rock this season.

The Astros lost 11-6 on Tuesday, but bounced back with a 3-2 win Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak and earn just their second win in their last nine games against the Nationals (57-70).

Houston (57-70), though, continues to struggle at the plate, scoring three runs or less in seven of its last eight games.

A bright spot for the Astros, however, was Ty Wigginton, who hit a solo home run Wednesday. Wigginton, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on July 28, hit his second home run since joining the Astros and his 18th of the season.

Wigginton, though, is still batting just .143 (2-for-14) against the Nationals.

Houston will face Washington rookie John Lannan (1-2, 3.94 ERA), who is coming off the worst of his five starts. The left-hander gave up five runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday night.

This will be Lannan’s first appearance against the Astros. He has gotten two runs or less to work with in four of his five starts.

The Nationals left seven men on base Wednesday after scoring 18 runs and collecting 28 hits en route to winning the series’ first two games.

Center fielder Nook Logan has been Washington’s most improved hitter over the last month, batting .389 in his last 28 games to raise his average from .215 to .286.

“I’m just going up there free-minded,” Logan said. “I’m not going up there (saying), ‘Gotta do this or gotta do that.’ I gotta take it one at-bat at a time.”

Logan also saved a run in the fifth inning Wednesday with an acrobatic catch in deep center to rob Lance Berkman of a hit. He is one of four players rotating in the outfield, along with Austin Kearns, Ryan Church and newly acquired Wily Mo Pena.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Lannan NYM vs. J. GutiƩrrez SF
2-2 Record 1-1
4.15 ERA 5.91
10 K 16
17 BB 6
1.53 WHIP 1.45

Scoreboard

Thursday, Aug 23