Oswalt escapes sixth-inning jam for 18th win


SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Roy Oswalt's biggest pitch of the night came
courtesy of a personal scouting report.

Oswalt dodged a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning and won his eighth straight start as the Houston Astros beat the San Diego Padres 6-2 on Tuesday night.

Oswalt (18-6) was coming off a five-game suspension for throwing
a pitch at Chicago's Alex Gonzalez on Aug. 12. He won for the second straight start against the Padres, whom he beat 2-1 in Houston last Wednesday.

With the Astros leading 3-1 and two outs in the sixth, Oswalt
put the heart of the Padres' order on base by allowing singles to
Ryan Klesko and Mark Kotsay, and walking Bubba Trammell. Oswalt ended the threat on his next pitch when he got rookie Sean
Burroughs, recalled earlier Tuesday from Triple-A Portland, to fly
out to left.

Oswalt and Burroughs were teammates on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal at Sydney two years ago, so the pitcher had become familiar with the hitter's tendencies.

``I tried to get him a breaking pitch and make him swing under it, and I got him to pop it up,'' Oswalt said.

``I was trying to throw it short and try to get him to swing out front,'' Oswalt said. ``He's a real big back-leg hitter, tries to hit everything off his back leg. I knew if I could get him to bounce a little bit on his front leg, maybe I could get a fly out or ground ball.''

The right-hander started his winning streak July 27 against
Pittsburgh, then won all six of his starts in August, becoming just
the fourth pitcher in Astros history with six wins in a month.

Backed by three double plays, Oswalt allowed one run and eight
hits in seven innings, struck out three and walked one. He improved
to 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in five career appearances against San
Diego, including three starts.

``I've felt real comfortable on the mound the whole month,'' he
said. ``All my pitches I can pretty much locate where I want to.''

Oswalt, in his second big league season, impressed the Padres.

``He's one of the best in the game,'' said Kotsay, who went
3-for-4 against Oswalt. ``He doesn't pitch like a guy with his
experience. He knows how to handle himself on the mound.''

Billy Wagner came in with runners on first and third struck out
Julius Matos for his 31st save in 37 chances.

Oswalt was lifted in the eighth for pinch-hitter Daryle Ward,
who hit a two-run double off reliever Jeremy Fikac. Craig Biggio
added an RBI double to make it 6-1.

Brian Lawrence (11-10) lost his fourth straight start, including
a 5-0 defeat at Houston on Thursday. Lawrence allowed three runs
and seven hits in five innings, struck out five and walked two.
He's allowed 16 earned runs and 34 hits in his last four starts,
pitching into the seventh inning just once in that stretch.

Oswalt fell behind 1-0 in the first inning when Ramon Vazquez
led off with a double and scored on Mark Kotsay's two-out double
into the left-field corner.

But the Astros jumped Lawrence for three runs on four hits in
the third. Orlando Merced, Brad Ausmus and Geoff Blum hit consecutive RBI singles.

``I threw the ball well,'' Lawrence said. ``It's just one of
those innings that got away.''

Blum finished 3-for-4. San Diego's Ramon Vazquez and Kotsay also
went 3-for-4.

Game notes
Blum hit a comical triple in the second. The ball bounced
off first base, went under first baseman Klesko, almost hit umpire
Paul Emmel, rolled along the right-field stands where a ball girl
tried to field it but let it roll between her legs, and then it
rolled under a security guard's chair before Bubba Trammell fielded
it. ... Klesko extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a
sixth-inning single. ... Kotsay batted cleanup for just the second
time in his career. In the only other time he batted fourth, he
went 0-4 against the Padres in San Diego on Aug. 14, 1999, while
with Florida.