Roger Clemens has the Hall of Fame persona. Andy Pettitte has the postseason resume. And quietly, all the Houston Astros' "other" starting pitcher has done is win more games than anyone else over the past two years.
"If it happened with somebody else, it would be all over the place," Astros Manager Phil Garner said. "But Roy [Oswalt] is not a self-promoter. He's very laid-back, and that's not a show that he puts on. That's the way he is. He's very comfortable being in the back room."
Oswalt will step onto center stage Thursday night, when the Astros face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. He won 20 games for the second straight year, and was one of the National League's best pitchers, joining teammates Clemens and Pettitte in that regard. But he struggled some against the Cardinals, going 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA, a record marred by his first start of the year, in which he gave up six runs in six innings.
In preparation, Oswalt watched video of his starts against the Cardinals dating from last year. Oswalt gave up more than three earned runs in only eight of his 35 starts, but two came against the Cardinals.
"He's going to go down as one of the great pitchers of this decade," Garner said.
Mulder Comfy and Cozy
Cardinals left-hander Mark Mulder said Wednesday was the first day in which he felt "absolutely no discomfort" in his left biceps, which was struck by a line drive off the bat of San Diego's Joe Randa in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. Thus, Mulder will start the second game of the NLCS on Thursday.
St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa also announced his decision to start right-hander Jeff Suppan in Game 4, a choice made more difficult by the fact that Jason Marquis, the other candidate, went 4-0 with a 3.22 ERA against the Astros this season.
"It's not the way you'd like to set it up, to all of a sudden you take a guy who has pitched well as a starter and make him a reliever," La Russa said. "But you've got to do what you've got to do."
La Russa said he put Marquis in the bullpen, rather than Suppan, because Marquis can bounce back more quickly without rest, and could replace right-hander Al Reyes, out for the season with damage to ligaments in his elbow. "He's got the kind of electric stuff that can be special out of the pen," La Russa said.
Suppan won the clinching games in the 2004 division series and NLCS for the Cardinals. He went 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA, but did not face the Astros. He'll be opposed by Houston's Brandon Backe. . . .
Cardinals right fielder Larry Walker, hit by a pitch in the division series against San Diego, still had soreness in his right knee. He could be replaced late in games by So Taguchi, La Russa said. . . .
The Astros tweaked their roster in between rounds of the playoffs, adding right-hander Ezequiel Astacio in place of rookie outfielder Luke Scott. Garner said he felt that in a seven-game series, he would need 11 pitchers. Astacio went 3-6 with a 5.67 ERA this season.