Wednesday, September 05, 2001
Oswalt's success astronomical
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
Roy Oswalt's rookie season is defined by two numbers. There's 13 his win total, breaking Jim Deshaies' record for an Astros' rookie. Then there's four the size of Houston's lead in the NL Central. The second, smaller number means a lot more to him than the first.
Oswalt pitched seven shutout innings Tuesday night and singled home a run in a 7-1 victory over the Reds that left him with 13 wins, the most ever by an Astros rookie.
The right-hander got his first big league win in relief at Cinergy Field last May 14 and kept the game ball as a memento, mounting it on a plaque. It's a nice complement to the gold medal he helped the U.S. Olympic team win last September in Sydney.
He kept nothing from his record-setting win, which stretched the Astros' lead over the Cubs back to four games.
It's a great record to accomplish, he said. Deshaies is a great pitcher. But right now, I'm not worrying about individual stuff. We're trying to get to the playoffs.
Without his brilliant rookie season, the Astros would be trying to catch up instead of trying to hold on.
Oswalt has done for the Astros what C.C. Sabathia has done for the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, providing an unexpected boost to a rotation desperately in need of another reliable starter.
He's meant a great deal to this team, manager Larry Dierker said. We were really struggling to get any kind of consistency in our rotation. In the first half, we were around .500 with our hitting and a good bullpen. Now our whole pitching staff is pretty solid.
No one's been better than Oswalt (13-2), who has given up a total of three runs in 32 innings while winning his last four starts. The right-hander has given up one earned run or less in six of his last seven starts.
When they called him up early in the season and broke him in gently by putting him in the bullpen, the Astros figured Oswalt would be a dependable starter someday.
We knew from last year that he was going to be a good major league pitcher, but I don't think anybody would have predicted he'd be a great pitcher in his first year, Dierker said.
Despite pitching roughly half of his games at hitter-friendly Enron Field, Oswalt has blossomed with a 96 mph fastball, a slow curve and a changeup he mixes in for effect. His earned run average is 2.68, best in the rotation.
That's not good that's great, Dierker said.
The Reds also have nothing but good things to say about him. Oswalt tied Deshaies' team record by beating the Reds with a three-hitter last Thursday at Enron, then gave up four hits in seven shutout innings Tuesday.
In four games against the Reds, Oswalt has pitched 21 1-3 innings and given up only 12 hits and one run while striking out 23.
I think he's the best I've faced this year, said first baseman Sean Casey, who's gone 1-for-8 against him. He's got great stuff. He keeps his fastball down, and it explodes.
Astros Notes: 3B Vinny Castilla had four singles, reached on Cincinnati's third error and scored twice. The Astros had 14 hits 12 of them singles. ... Moises Alou went 0-for-5, dropping his average from an NL-leading .346 to .342. ... 2B Craig Biggio scored his 100th run of the season the sixth time in the last seven years that he's reached the mark.
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