Pittsburgh (65-81) at Houston (63-83)

  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Fri Sep 14, 2007
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In a rare losing season for the Houston Astros, even staff ace Roy Oswalt has battled inconsistency at times.

He’ll try to snap out of a recent funk Friday when the Astros begin a three-game series at Minute Maid Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Oswalt (14-7, 3.41 ERA) has allowed nine runs and 19 hits in 12 2-3 innings over his last two starts, losing one and not receiving a decision in the other. The right-hander was reached for four runs and nine hits Sunday in seven innings of a 4-1 defeat to the New York Mets, losing for the first time since July 14.

“We had so many opportunities to get guys in,” Oswalt told the Astros’ official Web site. “We’ve got to do something to move guys around. You’ve got to score. If you don’t score, you can’t win.”

The right-hander has received two or fewer runs of support in 11 of his 30 starts this year, including both of his outings against the Pirates. He is 1-0 in those games, conceding only two runs in 13 2-3 innings and defeating them in his most recent outing against them July 20.

Oswalt, though, is 11-5 with a 2.62 ERA lifetime versus Pittsburgh, winning his last five decisions in a seven-start span since losing to the Pirates on April 25, 2005. He is 6-2 at home against them and has given up just one run in each of his last three starts at Minute Maid Park while winning two.

The Astros (63-83) dropped two of three games to the Chicago Cubs, including a 6-2 defeat Thursday in which losing pitcher Woody Williams allowed four home runs.

Pittsburgh (65-81), which needs three more wins to surpass its 2005 and 2006 win totals, continued to cause problems for the contenders in the NL Central race. The Pirates won their three-game series with the Brewers, capped by a 7-4 victory Wednesday afternoon that dropped Milwaukee one-half game behind Chicago after the Astros’ loss.

“We’re playing contenders for the rest of the season and we have a chance to spoil some playoff hopes,” Pirates reliever John Grabow said. “We can’t let up. We need to keep the mind-set that these teams are trying to kill us and we’ve got to play them as hard as we can.”

The Pirates also began the process of overhauling their front office Thursday by naming Frank Connelly team president. The former senior vice president and chief labor counsel of Major League Baseball will try to change the culture of a franchise on the verge of its 15th consecutive losing season.

“What we need to do in Pittsburgh is to adopt a philosophy of winning, and adopt principals that allow us to win: a framework to develop talent and a commitment to that talent,” he said. “We also expect commitment and dedication, loyalty and hard work from the players we’re prepared to commit to.”

Ian Snell (9-12, 4.00) makes his third start at Minute Maid Park this season in a bid for a first win. The right-hander lost for the second time in his last three starts overall on Saturday, giving up four runs and seven hits in seven innings of a 5-1 defeat to the Chicago Cubs.

Snell has no record to show from two decent 2007 outings at Houston, giving up five runs and striking out 17 in 13 innings. He is 2-3 lifetime against the Astros, but 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts and four career outings at Minute Maid Park.

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Starting Pitchers

I. Snell LAD vs. R. Oswalt COL
9-12 Record 14-7
3.76 ERA 3.18
177 K 154
68 BB 60
1.33 WHIP 1.33


Friday, Sep 14