The Houston Astros were unfazed after Roy Oswalt’s rough outing on opening day. Five days later, they shrugged off another uncharacteristic performance from their ace. After Oswalt’s third straight bad start, however, the right-hander and the team both admit they’re concerned.
Oswalt looks to get back on track after the first 0-3 start of his career as the Astros continue their three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
Oswalt is first in the NL with 112 wins since his 2001 rookie season, and second among qualifying starters behind Randy Johnson with a 3.15 ERA in that stretch. He has led Houston in wins in each of the last four seasons, totaling a NL-best 69 in those years.
But he’s still looking for his first victory of 2008. Oswalt (0-3, 9.00 ERA) gave up nine runs and 21 hits in 12 total innings in his first two starts before getting tagged for a career high-tying eight earned runs in four innings as Houston (5-9) lost 10-6 to Florida on Friday.
“Certainly I am,” Oswalt said when asked if he was worried about his struggles. “I have never went through this before. Hopefully it will change.”
Astros manager Cecil Cooper, who stood by his No. 1 starter after his first two outings, was more willing to admit there was a problem after Oswalt’s latest defeat.
“Obviously, we’re concerned, this is our ace,” Cooper told the Astros’ official Web site before adding that Oswalt’s health is not the issue. “If I knew I’d tell you. I have no clue. No clue. Going into this game I thought it was his best stuff. I don’t know what happened.”
The Astros could use a strong start from Oswalt as they try to rebound from a disheartening defeat in the series opener on Tuesday night. Offseason acquisition Shawn Chacon gave up only four singles in eight innings as Houston took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Then closer Jose Valverde— another first-year Astros player—gave up four runs and three hits as Houston fell 4-3.
Valverde, who had a league-leading 47 saves with Arizona in 2007, has converted one of his three opportunities this season while posting an 11.37 ERA in six appearances.
“It’s over today and I’ll be back tomorrow,” Valverde said after Tuesday’s collapse.
Phillies outfielder Geoff Jenkins scored the game-winning run despite striking out in the ninth. He reached on a passed ball and scored on Pedro Feliz’s walk-off double, failing to see his third base coach’s stop sign and sliding home just in front of the tag.
“It was a great piece of running,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “It was a big win for us.”
With wins in three of their last four games, the defending NL East champion Phillies (7-7) are in position to move above .500 for the first time this season.
They’ll try to get there by handing the ball to Houston native Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 6.14). Kendrick was reached for seven runs in his last outing, but only one of them was earned as the Phillies committed four errors in their 8-2 loss to the New York Mets last Wednesday.
The right-hander is making his first career appearance against the Astros.
Oswalt, meanwhile, is 5-1 with a 3.02 ERA in eight career games—six starts — against the Phillies. Since 2004, he’s 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA in six games against them—all Astros wins.