Astros muster little in Opening Day loss
Oswalt outdueled by buddy Peavy; bats silenced by righty
SAN DIEGO -- The long-awaited battle between baseball buddies Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy ended in the favor of the Padres, who benefitted from their ace pitcher's right arm, as well as his bat. Peavy drove in two of the Padres' four runs as the Astros dropped the season opener, 4-0, before a sellout crowd of 44,965 Monday night at PETCO Park.
Peavy dominated through most of his outing, but both starting pitchers looked hittable early. Both pitch counts were north of 20 by the end of the first frame, but while the Padres scratched out single runs in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings, the Astros had no such luck against Peavy.
The reigning NL Cy Young winner scattered three hits over seven frames and did not allow a runner to reach third during his 107-pitch outing that resulted in his first win of 2008.
"I call Roy the best pitcher on the planet and I guess I just saw the second best on the planet tonight," manager Cecil Cooper said. "It was pretty good. It wasn't by accident that he won the Cy Young last year. Pretty tough and tonight he was definitely on. That won't happen too often with us. Three hits, four hits? That won't happen very often."
Peavy and Oswalt, hunting partners in the offseason, placed a non-monetary wager on this game, and Oswalt will have to pay up. The 11 hits and three runs he allowed are partly responsible for this loss. The Astros' inability to challenge San Diego's pitchers also played a role.
According to Oswalt, he had no feel for his breaking stuff and consequently had to rely on his fastball most of the night. His struggle to fool hitters resulted in long at-bats and multiple foul balls, which caused the right-hander's pitch count to skyrocket. He reached 100 by the fifth inning.
"To keep the pitch count down, you have to have breaking pitches to get guys out front," Oswalt said. "That's one of the reasons my pitch count got up so high. I was throwing fastball after fastball after fastball. I was trying to mix in the four-seamer and two-seamer. It was 20-pitch inning after 20-pitch inning.
"I kept looking up, trying to have a quick inning ... if you don't have a breaking pitch where you get guys on first pitch, second pitch, out front where they have to respect the fastball, they can sit on the fastball all night."
Oswalt lasted 5 1/3 innings, the shortest of his club-record six Opening Day starts. But he exceeded his previous high of 106 pitches thrown, with 114.
Meanwhile, the retooled Houston roster, which includes a powerful revamped batting order, already has its first shutout of the year in the books. It was the Astros' fifth Opening Day shutout and their first since 1992.
Peavy's mound contributions were only part of the story. He also drove in San Diego's first run with a sacrifice fly in the second frame, a deep fly ball that sent Carlos Lee to the warning track in left. Josh Bard scored on that play, and he was in scoring position again in the fourth when Peavy singled off Oswalt to drive in run No. 2.
"He cheated on me the first time," Oswalt joked. "He acted like he was going to bunt. The same thing the second time, [runners on] first and second, I said, 'No doubt they're going to bunt, move them to second and third.'"
That was the plan. Except Peavy missed the bunt sign and instead connected for the base hit.
Peavy was Oswalt's final batter in the sixth. Oswalt issued a walk to his mound opponent, prompting Cooper to call for right-hander Dave Borkowski.
"He had a lot of eight and nine pitch at-bats," Cooper said. "That's going to take its toll. We were just trying to squeeze six innings out of him and keep him under 110 [pitches]. He kind of pushed me to the limits tonight -- 114. I didn't want to get him to that number but was trying to get him through the sixth inning."
Oswalt was hit on the right hip by a Kevin Kouzmanoff line drive in the first inning, but Oswalt said that was not the reason for his ineffectiveness.
"Nothing to do with it," he said. "I was terrible from the get-go, way before he hit me."
As for Oswalt's friendship with Peavy, nothing's different. Oswalt was good-natured about his friend's victory, claiming, "I'm sure there's going to be a lot of talking. We're even. I've won one, he's won one. It'll be fun the next time."
"He's staying with me [in San Diego]," Peavy said. "I'm not sure he's staying with me anymore."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.