Coming off one of their best games at the plate this season, the Reds look to end their struggles against Oswalt and avoid a 10th straight home loss to the Astros in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
Cincinnati (10-8) has had a promising first month of the season after failing to win more than 74 games in each of the previous two years. The Reds were in danger of losing three straight for the first time this season, but beat Atlanta 8-2 on Sunday to salvage the finale of a three-game series.
After matching a season high for runs, Cincinnati will try to take advantage of a struggling Houston (7-12) team. The Astros, though, have won nine straight and 15 of 16 at Cincinnati.
Reds starters have an 8.37 ERA during the team’s skid against the Astros.
Oswalt (0-2, 4.68 ERA), meanwhile, is 8-0 with a 2.15 ERA in his last nine starts against Cincinnati, and 23-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 27 starts and two relief appearances in the series overall.
The veteran right-hander lost the one game the Astros dropped to the Reds in their last 16 visits to Cincinnati. He allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings as the Reds won 5-4 on April 28, 2006.
Oswalt has gotten off to a slow start for the second straight season. He went 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his first five starts last year before finishing 17-10 with a 3.54 ERA.
In his last outing, Oswalt gave up four runs and eight hits over six innings in Houston’s 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night. He allowed three home runs, all in the sixth.
Oswalt will face a Cincinnati lineup that got two home runs from Jay Bruce on Sunday.
“I’ve been working on changing my approach,” said Bruce, batting .455 (10-for-22) with four home runs and eight RBIs during a six-game hitting streak. “I got myself out a whole lot last year, and I got myself out earlier this year. I just want to settle down and not get ahead of myself. The biggest thing is to swing at strikes and not swing at their (best) pitches.”
Bruce and fellow youngster Joey Votto are key pieces for a rebuilding Reds team. Votto had two doubles and three RBIs in the finale against the Braves, raising his average to .371.
Bruce went 2-for-4 with a home run in Johnny Cueto’s last start. Cueto (1-1, 2.55), who will take the mound Monday, gave up four hits and struck out three in seven innings to earn a win as Cincinnati beat the Chicago Cubs 3-0 on Wednesday night.
The 23-year-old right-hander didn’t walk a batter after issuing six over 4 2-3 innings in his previous outing.
He is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts against the Astros.
Houston got just enough from its lineup to win its last game, 3-2 against Milwaukee on Sunday. Ivan Rodriguez hit a tiebreaking homer in the fourth inning as the Astros ended a three-game losing streak.
The victory allowed the Astros to complete a 4-6 homestand before the team plays eight straight on the road.
“I was on edge all day today from yesterday,” Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. “That’s the way it is sometimes when you go through tough periods. You have a short fuse, you are ready to explode. I told my coaches today, you can relax but I’m on edge and I’ll stay that way until we get this fixed.”
The Reds won three of four at Houston from April 17-20.
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