Oswalt and the Astros look to continue their respective resurgences as the team goes for its seventh straight win in the middle game of a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday.
After a 6-12 start, Houston (12-12) has won six straight games to pull to .500 for the first time this season.
The first month of Oswalt’s season has followed a similar trend. The right-hander lost his first three starts for the first time in his career, compiling a 9.00 ERA in those games. Since then, however, Oswalt (2-3, 6.00 ERA) has limited Philadelphia and San Diego to four runs over 14 innings in back-to-back wins.
He held the Padres to three runs in seven innings while striking out six in Monday’s 10-3 victory.
“I feel better now,” Oswalt said. “I feel a lot closer to my old self. I told (manager Cecil Cooper) that after the Phillies game because I got command of my breaking pitches. When you have only one pitch, it’s hard to perform, but now I have all of them.”
That doesn’t bode well for St. Louis (14-10), against which Oswalt is 9-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 23 career games, and 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 10 games since September 2005.
The Cardinals, though, will also be turning to their ace. Adam Wainwright (2-1, 2.73) is 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his two home starts, and 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA in nine career games - three starts - against the Astros.
The right-hander held Milwaukee to two runs and four hits while striking out six over seven innings in his last outing, a 4-3 victory on Monday.
Wainwright will try to help the Cardinals rebound from a 3-2 loss in the opener of this series. St. Louis took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning, but Houston rallied for three runs against closer Jason Isringhausen, punctuated by Carlos Lee’s go-ahead solo home run with two outs.
“I don’t know if we got lucky or it’s just the way we’re going right now,” Lee said. “We just went out there and put some hits together at the right time.”
The Astros haven’t had a longer win streak since they won nine games in a row from Sept. 20-28, 2006 - a run that included a four-game sweep of the Cardinals.
“We’re getting big hits, good pitching, good defense,” Cooper said after Friday’s victory. “Those are the things that win ballgames. This was probably the biggest win we’ve had.”
St. Louis has dropped five of seven games after its 12-5 start. Over the past seven games, the Cardinals have averaged 3.7 runs and batted .253. They averaged 5.0 runs and batted .282 in their first 17 games.
The offensive drop-off has come despite Albert Pujols’ continued success. The slugging first baseman ranks among league leaders with a .375 batting average and a .528 on-base percentage. He’s a .292 (19-for-65) lifetime hitter against Oswalt, with three home runs and five walks.