Oswalt tosses Astros out of eight-game losing skid

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- In his second crack at it, Roy Oswalt finally stopped the Astros' losing streak. And against a team that had just swept the best team in baseball, too.

Oswalt held Tampa Bay to two runs in nearly eight innings, Carlos Lee had a two-run double and the Houston Astros snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the Rays on Friday night.

"Roy had it going tonight," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "If you have a losing streak, he'll be the guy to step up and stop it. He was basically in command after the first inning."

Oswalt (6-7) allowed seven hits in 7 2/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts.

"I didn't put too much pressure on myself," Oswalt said. "I just wanted to have a quality start. I threw some quality pitches and got some quick outs."

Oswalt was coming off an outing last Sunday in which he allowed seven runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 13-0 loss to the New York Yankees.

"He pitched really well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He could have beaten a lot of teams tonight. He had very good command of his off-speed stuff. He was good, and that was the primary reason that we did not win tonight."

Lee put the Astros ahead 2-0 with a two-out, two-run double in the first. He has 38 RBIs in his last 42 games.

The Rays came in having won three straight over the Chicago Cubs, a baseball-leading 46-28 after Friday's games.

The announced attendance at Tropicana Field was 14,741, less than half what the Rays averaged during their sweep of the Cubs. During that series, the team drew a total of 97,544 fans.

Eric Hinske drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, which lost for just the fifth time in its last 30 home games.

Doug Brocail replaced Oswalt with two on and two in the eighth, and got a first-pitch grounder from Cliff Floyd. Jose Valverde gave up a solo homer to Dioner Navarro in the ninth, but got the final three outs for his 17th save in 21 opportunities.

"It's the first time we ever faced him," Navarro said of Oswalt. "He pitched great. They got the key hits. We were ready today, but it didn't go our way."

Valverde's save was the first by an opponent at Tropicana Field since the one recorded by New York Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera on April 15.

Kazuo Matsui had an RBI double and Lance Berkman hit a sacrifice fly during a 12-pitch at-bat as Houston went up 4-1 in the fifth.

Hinske got the Rays within 2-1 on an RBI single in the bottom of the first. He made it 4-2 on an eighth-inning run-scoring single.

Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Garza (5-4) gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out eight and walked two in losing for the first time in five decisions at home this season.

Game notes
Houston broadcaster Milo Hamilton called the Astros' first game at Tropicana Field, the 56th different major league stadium at which he has called a game during his career. ... Berkman (left shin) played first base for the first time since last Saturday. He was the DH in the previous three games at Baltimore. ... Tampa Bay SS Jason Bartlett, who missed Thursday's game after hitting a ball off his left foot in batting practice, was back in the starting lineup. ... Rays CF Rocco Baldelli (chronic muscle fatigue) played his third game this week as the DH for Class A Vero Beach. His rehab program will be re-evaluated this weekend. ... The Astros are 4-0 against the Rays. ... Houston hitting coach Sean Berry filled in for third base coach Ed Romero, who has a sore knee.