Washington (25-26) at Houston (17-33)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 79° F
  • Game info: 2:05 pm EDT Mon May 31, 2010
  • TV: MASN, FSH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The latter half of this month hasn’t been kind to the Houston Astros or Washington Nationals.

The good news for one team is that it can conclude May with a victory.

The Astros’ Roy Oswalt(notes) and Nationals’ Luis Atilano(notes) will try to build on impressive wins in Monday’s opener of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Houston (17-33) has dropped 12 of 16 since May 13, but recorded a 2-0 win in 10 innings Sunday at NL Central-leading Cincinnati. Lance Berkman(notes) had a two-run double in the 10th as the Astros recorded their second shutout in five days.

“That’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to get a hit in that situation,” Berkman told the Astros’ official website.

The Nationals (25-26) have dropped 11 of 16 since May 14 and missed their chance to win a series over an NL opponent for the first time over that span with Sunday’s 3-2 loss to San Diego. Ryan Zimmerman(notes) hit a pair of solo homers, including the tying shot in the sixth inning, but Adam Kennedy’s(notes) error set up Nick Hundley’s(notes) winning pinch-hit single in the 11th.

Lance Zawadski’s grounder deflected off of reliever Sean Burnett’s(notes) glove, and Kennedy’s hurried throw went into the Padres’ dugout.

“Fluky stuff happens. The ball is off Burnett’s glove. That changes everything,” manager Jim Riggleman told the Nationals’ website. “It’s part of the game. It happens.”

Riggleman’s club will try to avoid dropping two games under .500 since its 3-5 start, but that might not be an easy task against Oswalt (3-6, 2.35 ERA).

The Astros right-hander is ninth in the NL in ERA but has been hurt by the 2.48 runs per game his teammates have provided.

Houston gave him five runs Wednesday in Milwaukee, but Oswalt didn’t need them as he threw a four-hitter and matched his season high with nine strikeouts over eight innings of a 5-0 win.

“I’m going to do my job, try to do my job every time I go out,” Oswalt said. “It doesn’t affect me. The guys came out and gave me a lead and I was able to hold on to it.”

Oswalt will try to help the Astros to consecutive victories for the first time since a four-game run May 9-13, but he hasn’t recorded a decision in seven appearances against Washington since a 3-2 road win July 21, 2005.

He will also attempt to record his 11th consecutive quality start to open this season and match Dave Giusti’s team record from 1968.

In his first outing against the Astros, Atilano (4-1, 4.82) will try to outduel his second All-Star in as many games. The Washington rookie allowed two runs and four hits over 5 1-3 innings Wednesday to hand San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum(notes) his first loss in six decisions this season.

“Finally, I was able to command my sinker,” Atilano told his team’s website. “I was happy I finally got back to the point where I was on top of my game. Hopefully, it will keep going like that.”

The Astros and Nationals split six games last season, but Houston has won five of seven at home.

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Starting Pitchers

L. Atilano Cin vs. R. Oswalt Col
6-7 Record 13-13
5.15 ERA 2.76
40 K 193
32 BB 55
1.49 WHIP 1.03

Scoreboard

Monday, May 31