Oswalt one-hits Bucs for shutout, sweep
With Berkman's help, ace closing in on franchise wins record
HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman went right over and put his arm around Roy Oswalt after the ace had stuck out the final hitter to complete a one-hit shutout against the Pirates on Thursday. It was a fitting move from the Astros' best hitter to the best pitcher, the two faces of the franchise.
The duo united in a 2-0 win like they have many times over their career.
"You had Lance and Roy," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "A special outing by Roy. He had outstanding stuff the whole time. Coming out of the 'pen, he had great stuff; the whole game, he had great stuff. ... Lance, of course, continues to swing the bat well."
Berkman was crushing balls into the Crawford Boxes. Oswalt was shutting down the Pirates in order. The duo completed a sweep for the Astros, which took fans back a few years when sweeps were much more common.
Ah, the good old days.
This win was the present, however, where the club has had far few memorable moments this season. Berkman has hit well below his average, and Oswalt has been lucky to get one run out of his offense in his starts.
Berkman made sure early that Oswalt would get at least that one run when he hit a solo homer in his first at-bat in the first inning to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. And in his next at-bat in the fourth, Berkman homered again, giving him his third long ball in as many at-bats and fifth in four games.
"Obviously, when you are getting good results, you are feeling confident," Berkman said. "There's a little more bounce in your step, and you have a little more optimistic outlook on your at-bats."
All season, Berkman has said he's felt good at the plate, and the Pirates certainly wouldn't disagree. They also aren't sad to leave him in a series where he hit four homers, half of what he had before the set.
"He killed us," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He plays this ballpark very well. I've seen him do that countless times -- he takes that ball and shoots it over the wall."
Oswalt also had his way with the Pirates. He had his first complete-game shutout since Sept. 11, 2008, which was also against Pittsburgh.
"That was one of the best games I've ever seen him throw," Berkman said.
Oswalt's name has been in the rumor mill since he asked for a trade earlier this season, and scouts from a number of teams, including the Rays, Mets, Dodgers, Phillies and Twins, watched. And he didn't disappoint them.
Other than a stray hit in the first inning by Neil Walker, Oswalt dominated. He had the Pirates' hitters one pitch behind nearly every at-bat, finishing with eight strikeouts.
The closest call Oswalt had came in the sixth, when Andrew McCutchen reached second base on a balk. But then Berkman showed his defense skills when he stopped a sharp ground ball down the line to get Oswalt out of the jam. Berkman stopped another potential hit in the ninth, making a diving catch on a ball hit by McCutchen.
"The reason I like to play first base is because you can have a big impact on the game defensively," Berkman said.
Berkman's impact on the field and at the plate helped move Oswalt one game behind Joe Niekro for the most wins in Astros history with 143 victories.
"Hopefully, I catch him," Oswalt said.
If Oswalt pitches anywhere close to how he did against the Pirates and Berkman keeps helping him offensively, that shouldn't be much of a problem.
Steve Gartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.