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Astros pin NLCS hopes on Oswalt
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10/11/2004 1:01 AM ET
Astros pin NLCS hopes on Oswalt
Starter pitches on three days' rest in decisive Game 5
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Roy Oswalt is 3-1 on three or fewer days' rest with a 4.33 ERA. (Mike Simons/AP)

HOUSTON -- Now it is Roy Oswalt's turn to pitch a must-win game on three days' rest.

After the bullpen blew Roger Clemens' three-run lead in Sunday's Game 4 loss to the Braves, the Astros return to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5. Just like Clemens did Saturday, Oswalt will take the ball on short rest with a chance to pitch the Astros to their first-ever postseason series win.

"Clemens and I, since the All-Star break, we've been pitching like it's a playoff atmosphere every day," Oswalt said. "One less day of rest is no big thing."

Oswalt has started on short rest on four other occasions, going 3-1 on three or fewer days' rest, with a 4.33 ERA and a .242 opponents' batting average.

But three of those starts followed a relief appearance and the only short-rest start following a start was Oswalt's only loss. It came on July 11 of this season, when Oswalt pitched six innings on the Sunday before the All-Star break.

He surrendered three runs on eight hits in that game on three days' rest, throwing 91 pitches in a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers. Oswalt struck out eight in that game.

"This time of year, you have to do things different than you did during the [regular season]," Oswalt declared after Sunday's 6-5 loss in Game 4. "I did it once, right before the All-Star break. It's no big deal. ... I'm ready to pitch tomorrow. One day doesn't make a difference."

It made a difference to Clemens, who said his legs were fatigued by the fourth or fifth inning. But Clemens, who nonetheless limited the Braves to two runs in five innings of work, is 42 years old, and he was one week removed from a stomach flu that sapped his strength.

Oswalt, 27, said he is ready to pitch the biggest game of his career.

"Every game's been big, ever since the All-Star break," he said. "If we didn't win those games like we did right before the end of the season we wouldn't be here, anyway."

Would Clemens offer any advice?

"I don't tell Roy a thing," Clemens said. "I think Roy's a grown man and he can handle it. We'll be excited for him. He's been our horse all year so we're looking for big things."

Roy Oswalt on short rest
Date
Days' rest
OPP
IP
H
ER
HR
BB (IBB)
K
Pitches
06/02/01*
3
LA
6
2
1
1
0
4
73
07/11/02*
3
CIN
7
7
3
1
2
5
94
07/11/04
3
LA
6
8
3
0
3 (2)
8
91
08/27/04*
2
CHC
8
7
6
2
1
4
98
* Previous appearance came in relief
Clemens and Oswalt, with a late-season assist from right-hander Brandon Backe, helped pitch the Astros into this position. Clemens said he fed off Oswalt during the season and Oswalt certainly benefited from pitching next to a future Hall of Famer.

"He has talked about maybe adding a [split-fingered fastball] to his arsenal next year," Clemens said, referring to his signature pitch. "Just things like that, just things that you talk about when you feel like you're one of the guys that are passing the baton along. I mean, no different than when I had some elder statesmen on my team when I was a younger player. I really appreciate the knowledge that they gave me."

Oswalt spent Game 4 in the Astros dugout. He cut out his between-starts bullpen-throwing session and was ready to throw an inning in relief in Game 3 had he been needed.

The Astros need him to come up big on Monday. The team has never won any of its previous seven postseason series.

"He's one of the best starters there is, so we have a lot of confidence going back there [to Atlanta]," Astros closer Brad Lidge said. "We're not dead or anything like that. This is just another game we're going to play now. We're fine. I don't think anybody's confidence is down."

Oswalt's certainly was not.

"I'm going to treat it like any other game," he said. "A lot of times, guys try to put too much on one game. There's only so much you can do. You give 100 percent, and that's it."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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