Oswalt outdueled by Lincecum

Oswalt outdueled by Lincecum

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the exception of an errant slider that Juan Uribe knocked out of the ballpark for a two-run homer in the fourth inning Saturday, Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt was every bit as good -- if not better -- than Giants ace Tim Lincecum.

The performance was really nothing new for Oswalt, who extended his string of quality starts to begin the season to eight by holding the Giants to two runs and six hits while striking out seven batters in seven innings.

But the Astros couldn't crack the two-time National League Cy Young winner, as Lincecum held them to four hits in eight innings and watched closer Brian Wilson escape a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to preserve San Francisco's 2-1 win over Houston at AT&T Park.

"I feel pretty good," said Oswalt, who fell to 2-5 and lowered his ERA to 2.62. "My mechanics wasn't as good as it was last start, but good enough to lose."

Oswalt's frustration is understandable, considering the Astros have scored only five runs in the 33 innings he's pitched this year in his five losses. He entered the game ranked third among NL starters in fewest runs scored while he was on the mound.

"I knew I needed to probably throw a shutout, you know, maybe we can get one [run]," he said. "A pitch backed up on me on a slider. I was trying to go down and away, and it backed up over the plate."

Teammate Lance Berkman was asked what he thought of Oswalt's frustration over the lack of run support and he didn't mince words.

"We're a team, you know what I'm saying?" he said. "As much as you want to cry for a guy not getting run support, it's a team game. We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we lost today. I certainly understand his frustration, but it's not like we're not trying. We're out there grinding them out and trying to score some runs, and it hasn't happened."

And the Astros certainly had their chances against Lincecum, who improved to 4-0 in seven career starts against Houston, including two this year. He beat Oswalt on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park and is 3-0 in five career starts against Houston's ace.

"I didn't feel like I had a good rhythm," Lincecum said. "I was fighting myself with mechanics. It turned out all right. ... Roy pitched a great game today and didn't win. It happens."

The Astros had the leadoff runner on base in six of nine innings and were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 on base. Lincecum tied a career high by walking five batters, including three to lead off an inning.

"I didn't think he was that good today, I really didn't," Berkman said. "I thought he made some pitches when he had to make them, but overall I didn't think he was outstanding."

The only run the Astros were able to push across came in the first inning, when Michael Bourn walked, stole second, went to third on Berkman's grounder and scored on a wild pitch. Bourn stole three bases to raise his league-leading total to 14.

"We haven't really had many big hits," Berkman said. "We've had a few, and we had quite a few in the St. Louis series [prior to the Giants series]. We certainly gave ourselves a lot of opportunities, but [Lincecum] made a pitch when he had to and we just didn't get the job done. Offensively we had many, many chances to score runs, no one got a big hit, and consequently we lost the game."

Lincecum, who left his previous three starts with a lead and watched his bullpen blow it, nearly had it happen again. Wilson allowed the Astros to load the bases with two outs in the ninth on two walks and a hit. Kaz Matsui (0-for-5) battled Wilson for 15 pitches and fouled off five consecutive pitches before flying out to left field to end the game.

"That's the epitome of battling right there," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "It was a good at-bat, a great at-bat."

Wilson threw Matsui 14 fastballs during the bat, ranging from 96-98 mph.

"After a while, it was kind of comical," Wilson said. "It felt like it took a half-hour. This guy was just battling. That's one of the best battles you can have between a pitcher and batter."

Astros left fielder Carlos Lee, who went 0-for-2 before being ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning, let his frustrations be known by arguing with plate umpire Bill Welke. Lee said the team is scratching and clawing for every pitch and couldn't get a break.

"Every at-bat counts," Lee said. "We're fighting and trying hard and doing everything we can, but it's hard when they take the bat away from your hands, especially when you're having a good at-bat. I was seeing the ball good and staying in it and I saw the ball all the way. If I were wrong, I would probably say I was wrong and I'd admit it, but that was not a strike."

Oswalt, whose reiteration earlier this week on a national radio show that he would be open to waiving his no-trade clause if the Astros ever asked him created a stir, is 10-11 since the start of last season and has repeatedly received poor run support in that span.

"I've been going through this [for] three years," he said. "My side, all I have to do is pitch. That's all I can do. Nothing else I can do. See what happens."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.