Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt took the mound against his longtime former club Sunday afternoon and tossed six stellar innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts over 88 pitches (58 for strikes), to lead Philadelphia to a three-game sweep over the Houston Astros with a 7-3 victory.
The trio of Philly aces — Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Oswalt — combined for a 2-0 record with a 2.84 ERA, 23 strikeouts and just one walk over 19 innings throughout the weekend, with each pitcher recording a quality start without allowing more than five hits.
Oswalt (1-0), who compiled 143 victories with the Astros over 10 seasons, received plenty of early run support, especially from slugger Ryan Howard, who blasted a three-run homer off Houston starter Bud Norris in the bottom of the first to give Philly a 3-0 lead.
Howard finished 3-for-5 with four RBI, and is hitting .538 (7-for-12) with six RBI and three runs scored over the first three games.
Right fielder Ben Francisco connected for his first home run of the season later in the first, giving Oswalt a comfortable 4-0 lead.
The 29-year-old Francisco joined Howard with three hits and continues to gain a stronger hold on the starting job vacated by Jayson Werth.
He wrapped up the three-game sweep with six hits, four RBI and three runs scored, and made an impressive catch while crashing into the wall Sunday to rob Astros second baseman Bill Hall in the fourth, which led to a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd of 45,562.
Howard made it 5-0 with an RBI double to right in the third.
Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who finished with three hits, went deep for the first time this season with a fourth-inning solo homer off Oswalt.
First baseman Brett Wallace cut the lead down to 5-2 with an RBI groundout to first in the sixth inning to score slugger Carlos Lee.
However, the Phillies got the run back in the bottom half of the inning when pinch-hitter Shane Victorino, who didn’t start due to soreness in his left calf stemming from a Saturday night collision with Francisco in the outfield, singled home a run to right field.
Center fielder Michael Martinez added to Victorino’s RBI single with one of his own down the third-base line, making it 7-2 after six innings.
Astros catcher Humberto Quintero grounded into a double play in the ninth to score Wallace.
As part of the 13-hit attack by Philadelphia, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and third baseman Placido Polanco each added two hits.
Norris (0-1), who got the starting nod in place of J.A. Happ, allowed five earned runs on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts over four innings.
Despite averaging more than a strikeout per inning, Norris was unable to recover from an early deficit due to yielding two long balls.
“I’ve got to be better than that,” Norris said. “I’ve got to work on some things and get back out there next time. I thought I got a little bit better after the first inning. I was able to work out of some jams and keep the game in tact, but like I said, I’ve got to do better earlier in the game.”
The Astros (0-3) will depart the City of Brotherly Love in an early-season hole, yet manager Brad Mills was pleased, for the most part, with the overall pitching and how his team competed against arguably the top team in the National League.
“I thought we played well,” he said. “We just got behind the 8-ball a little bit in the last couple of games. I was very pleased with the way the guys battled. It’s not disappointing in regard to our pitching. We’re going to go through some tough times when trying to find a groove.
“In a perfect world, we want everyone to come out and throw the ball extremely well. [Brett] Myers threw the ball well Friday. Wilton Lopez threw well. Wandy [Rodriguez] and Bud [Norris] weren’t themselves, but other than that, the guys are throwing the ball really well.”
Houston is idle Monday before opening a three-game series Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Happ gets the starting nod for the Astros in the opener, as he’ll take on young right-hander Mike Leake, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.
“We’ve got to get on the ball soon,” Pence said. “We’ve had bad starts in the past and we can’t allow that to happen again. We played decent baseball this weekend in Philly, but we got beat. We have to come out there in Cincy and find a way to get some wins.
“Our minds are preparing to play Cincy.”
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