Roy Oswalt’s last start stirred some controversy in Houston, but now the Astros ace is just worried about bouncing back from his first loss in more than month.
Five days after leaving a game with a hip injury, Oswalt returns to the mound Thursday when the Astros kick off a four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park.
Oswalt (4-4, 5.43 ERA) lost for the first time in five decisions Saturday, giving up six runs and 11 hits in six innings of a 6-2 defeat at Texas. He left in the seventh with a hip problem, and claimed later that he told the team he shouldn’t continue before being sent out to pitch anyway.
The controversy appears to have been diffused, with manager Cecil Cooper calling the situation a “misunderstanding.” When asked Sunday if he was fine with the decision, Oswalt responded: “Yeah.”
Oswalt was concerned at first that he would miss his next start, but decided this week that he would be able to go.
“It’s not a muscle strain, so that’s a good thing,” Oswalt told the Astros’ official Web site. “I think it’s more of a tendon … I think it’s just inflamed more than anything.”
Following an April 11 loss to Florida, Oswalt went 4-0 with a 3.51 ERA in six outings before Saturday. A matchup with the Phillies (26-22) might help him bounce back, as he’s 6-1 with a 2.79 ERA in nine appearances - seven starts - against them. Oswalt has won six straight decisions versus Philadelphia since the loss on May 9, 2003.
His last start against the Phillies came April 16, when he gave up one run in seven innings of a 2-1 victory that started his four-game win streak. Kyle Kendrick (3-2, 4.76), who starts Thursday for Philadelphia, was the tough-luck loser, giving up two runs in seven innings in his first start against Houston (27-21).
Now, Oswalt will be trying to shut down a Phillies lineup that broke out for a season high in runs in Wednesday’s 12-2 win in Washington. Ryan Howard hit his 11th and 12th homers and Pedro Feliz and Shane Victorino also homered for Philadelphia, which scored one run while splitting the first two games of the series.
“It’s huge after the first two games, where we kind of got off to a slow start with hits and runs, to be able to come out and explode the way we did,” said Howard, who went 0-for-7 in the first two games. “Hopefully, we can carry it over to our next trip.”
The Phillies will try to give the same kind of run support to Kendrick, who threw one scoreless inning in his last start Sunday before a rain delay ended his night. Philadelphia lost 6-5 to Toronto, ending a streak of five straight Kendrick starts the team had won.
The right-hander’s short outing led the Phillies to move him up to pitch on three days’ rest Thursday.
“We didn’t want Kyle to sit around for five more days,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
Kendrick will face a Houston club that just took two of three from the NL Central-leading Cubs, including Wednesday’s 5-3 win. Carlos Lee hit a three-run homer and Shawn Chacon earned the victory, ending his major league-record streak of nine straight outings without a decision to start a season.
“Early on we were just trying to find out who we are,” said Cooper, whose team has won nine of 13. “Now we know who we are and we’re pretty good.”