Oswalt off his game in loss to Braves
Astros ace yields six runs in two frames; Berkman homers
HOUSTON -- Despite trailing by five runs in the second inning, the Astros somehow managed to work their way back into the game against the Braves and starting pitcher Derek Lowe and even had the go-ahead run at the plate in the ninth inning.Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, who had a two-run single in the ninth on Wednesday to give the Astros a walk-off win over the Braves, had a chance to be the man of the hour again Thursday night, but wound up being the man who set a dubious club record. Tejada grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game to allow the Braves to escape Minute Maid Park with a 9-7 victory and a series victory over the Astros. Tejada became the first Astros' player to hit into three double plays in one game. "You can't do it every day, and that's why we have nine guys," Tejada said. "I wish I could do better than I did today, but that's a part of the game. I'm going to try to do good every day, but today is the kind of day that nothing is working out for me." The fact the Astros were even in position to win the game was surprising, considering starter Roy Oswalt gave up 10 hits and six runs in two innings. Oswalt (8-6), who left his previous start five days earlier with tightness in his lower back, departed the ballpark before reporters arrived in the clubhouse after the game. "This was an uphill battle from the start," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "I don't know if Roy was up in the zone or missing spots. It's tough to pitch like that, and he wasn't very sharp tonight. It looked like the stuff was coming out of his hand OK. He just didn't locate very well. "There were some pitches up, and they didn't miss very many of them in the zone. He just didn't look as sharp as he's looked before. I don't think the back was an issue. I went over there to ask him about that, and he said it wasn't an issue. It was just one of those nights." Tejada (0-for-5) hit into a 1-6-3 double play with two runners on base to end the first, and a 5-4-3 double play with a runner at first base to end the third. He leads the National League with 27 double plays. "That's tough for Miggy," Cooper said. "Last night, he got the big hit for us, so we can't bury him too deep. He's gotten a lot of big hits for us all year. Some of these nights, they happen." Oswalt gave up a home run to Nate McLouth on the second pitch of the game, and the next three batters each got a hit on the second pitches of their at-bats. Yunel Escobar doubled, and Chipper Jones and Brian McCann had consecutive singles. Garrett Anderson followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Oswalt struck out Lowe (14-9) to strand the bases loaded in the first, but the Braves worked him over again in the second, scoring three runs on six hits. McCann had an RBI double, and Anderson and Adam LaRoche had RBI singles to stretch the lead to 6-1. "I was surprised to see him be the way he was today," Tejada said. "Roy is the kind of guy, he's a pitcher that never gives it up like this. It's a long season, and he's been battling with back pain, and we have to think what he did today is because he had a bad back. He cannot do it all. He had a bad outing today, but next time I think he's going to have a really good one." McCann went 4-for-5, snapping an 0-for-20 drought. "[Oswalt] left some pitches up tonight, which he normally doesn't do," McCann said. "We were able to put some good swings on it." Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer to left-center field in the third running to cut the lead to 6-4, but the Braves added two in the fourth off Billy Sadler to make it 8-4. Berkman's homer snapped a 32-game home run drought, one game shy of his career-long drought. "He's swinging better," Cooper said. "I've said all along when he's hitting the ball to left-center, that's his stroke. Tonight he hit a home run to left-center, and last night he hit a double off the ball. That's typical Lance. That's really where he hits the ball a lot. When he starts to try to pull he's a different player." The Astros scored twice in the eighth, including an RBI by Jason Michaels, to cut the lead to 9-7, but Michael Bourn (2-for-5) was thrown out at first base on an extremely close play for the third time in the game to end the inning. "Offensively we hung around and gave ourselves a chance, and that's all you can do is give yourself a chance," Cooper said. "I thought the guys continued to battle and play hard, and they gave us a chance to stay in it. If [the pitchers] gave us some zeros in the middle innings, we might have had a chance to [win] in it."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.