Oswalt looks to win 15 games for the fourth consecutive season and fifth time in his career as the Astros (68-87) close their four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.
The right-hander is making his first start since Sept. 14 after skipping his turn in the rotation last week to be with his wife, who gave birth on Tuesday to the couple’s second child.
Oswalt (14-7, 3.29 ERA) allowed just one unearned run in his last start against Pittsburgh. He pitched seven innings, yielding seven hits while striking out six, but didn’t factor in the Astros’ 4-3 loss.
Oswalt, who won 15 games last year, 20 in 2004 and 2005 and 19 in 2002, is winless this month after going 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA in five August starts. He’s 9-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 21 starts and one relief appearance against the Cardinals (72-82), including 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA in three starts against them this year.
“You just hope he makes a mistake,” said St. Louis’ Rick Ankiel after Oswalt held the Cardinals to just four hits in seven innings of 7-0 win on Aug. 29.
Oswalt looks to help Houston win this series. After outscoring St. Louis 24-4 in the first two games, Houston lost 7-4 on Saturday. Ankiel homered for the first time in 17 games, and Albert Pujols hit a two-run, pinch-hit single in the seventh during a five-run inning.
Pujols, who has not started the last four games because of a strained left calf, is trying to become the only player to reach 100 RBIs in each of his first seven seasons. He has 98 so far.
“One hundred RBIs is nice,” Pujols said. “How many guys can say they drive in 100 runs every year? But I don’t want to force it. I want to play real bad but I’ll go by the trainers, whenever they think I’m ready to go.”
The Cardinals’ win on Saturday was just their third in the last 17 games. Houston, meanwhile, had its three-game winning streak end and dropped to 7-13 this month.
Todd Wellemeyer (3-2, 3.59) will take the mound for St. Louis in the series finale. The right-hander is making his 10th start this season for the Cardinals.
Wellemeyer was the starter in a 7-4, 14-inning loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday. He gave up a run, a hit and walked three in two innings as St. Louis used 11 pitchers in the 5-hour, 4-minute contest.
Wellemeyer is 1-0 with an 8.31 ERA in six career relief appearances against the Astros. He will face them for the first time this year.