Lance Berkman believes the Houston Astros could be in for a long season if they don’t start moving up in the standings now. They should have a much better chance of doing that with ace Roy Oswalt back in the rotation.
The Astros will send Oswalt to the mound for the first time this month when they open a three-game series with the Washington Nationals on Friday night in a matchup of last-place teams.
Houston (42-50) had lost three straight and seven of eight before beating Pittsburgh 6-4 on Wednesday night. With the All-Star break approaching, the Astros are 13 games behind first-place Chicago in the NL Central.
“I think we’re going to be playing a series of must-win games,” Houston first baseman Lance Berkman told the team’s official Web site. “It’s getting to be the time of year where we either have to fish or cut bait, and we better start fishing.”
The Astros have won two games since Oswalt beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 30 in his last outing. He gave up one run while striking out nine in six innings before leaving the game with a nerve problem, and his next start was skipped.
Oswalt (7-8, 4.60 ERA) is returning to the rotation after emerging pain-free from a bullpen session Tuesday. The veteran right-hander is 3-4 with a 3.11 ERA in his last seven starts, and 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in seven starts and two relief appearances versus the Nationals franchise.
Redding has not received a decision in nine straight starts, tying former teammate Shawn Chacon for the longest such stretch this season. The right-hander’s last decision came in a 4-0 win over Philadelphia on May 19.
In his last start, Redding allowed one run and eight hits in six innings of Washington’s 3-2 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday night.
Redding is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts against Houston. He’ll be on the mound for a Nationals team that did not give up an earned run in two straight games before losing 7-5 in 11 innings to Arizona on Thursday night.
Injury-depleted Washington (35-58) extended the game twice, tying it with two runs in the ninth and three in the 10th.
The Nationals placed infielder Aaron Boone (calf) on the 15-day disabled list before the game, making him the 15th Washington player to be shelved this season.
“I don’t think we’re the only team that has injuries,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “I know we have a lot of them, but it’s part of the game. You just have to deal with it and move forward.”
Boone was replaced on the roster by Pete Orr, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus. Orr, who was batting .275 with two home runs and 33 RBIs with Columbus and leads the International League with 11 triples, led off the 10th inning Thursday with a double and later scored.
Washington lost two of three games at Houston from May 6-8.