Roy is the wizard of O's as 'Stros sweep

Roy is the wizard of O's as 'Stros sweep

HOUSTON -- Prior to Sunday's game, assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones tacked a snippet from the local newspaper onto the bulletin board in the clubhouse. It was a paragraph from a column written by a local humorist, who was answering a trivia question from a reader.

The quote: "In 1944, a Boston Braves pitcher named Red Barrett needed only 58 pitches to throw a two-hitter and beat the Cincinnati Reds. He didn't walk or strike out a single batter in the entire game. The game took only one hour and 15 minutes, still the record for the quickest night game ever played."

Several pitchers marveled at that statistic and wondered how they might be able to do the same as Barrett. An hour or so later, Roy Oswalt almost did.

Sure, his two-hitter took longer, but not by much. Oswalt made quick work of the Toronto Blue Jays, using only 88 pitches to lead the Astros to a 3-0 win before 30,584 Sunday afternoon under a closed roof at Minute Maid Park. The Oswalt Show lasted one hour, 50 minutes -- the fastest game in Minute Maid Park history.

More importantly, the Astros' winning streak now stands at five, a season high.

"It was one of his best [starts], that's for sure," manager Phil Garner said. "He located his fastball extremely well, used both sides of the plate very well with his fastball. He got outs on the inner half of the plate and attacked the strike zone, and when you throw like Roy throws, nobody wants to get to two strikes. From the get-go, he had them wanting to swing the bats."

Oswalt was averaging a little over five strikeouts per start this year, but on Sunday, he struck out only three. That enabled him to go the distance with the fewest number of pitches he's needed in any of his seven complete games.

Oswalt yielded a leadoff hit to Shea Hillenbrand in the second, and he would be the last Blue Jay to reach base until Alex Rios doubled with two outs in the ninth. The right-hander kept his infielders busy -- 16 of the outs were on ground balls.

"This is [the type of] game that I thought Roy could pitch," Garner said. "He's got such good stuff that when he does locate it, he's going to get quick and early outs. It's nice to lead the league in strikeouts and he can do that. My question is, wouldn't you like to get eight innings or nine innings consistently and throw 80 pitches? It's easier on your arm. I think he can throw these kind of games."

Oswalt knew he had a big advantage over the Blue Jays, just from the fact that they had never seen him pitch prior to Sunday.

"It's just like when you come to the league the first time," he said. "You do things they've never seen before. The scouting report on me is I throw a lot of strikes. They were going to try to get to me early. I was able to keep the ball down enough to get into a groove."

"His fastball was his best pitch today, no question," said catcher Brad Ausmus. "His slider would probably be second to that. But he used all four pitches. The movement on the fastball on the inside corner and the outside corner, back and forth, was the most important thing today in terms of getting outs."

Said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: "He's pumping strikes, so sometimes you've got to go at him on the first pitch. Otherwise, you're sitting 0-1 or 0-2 by the time you turn it around. The only way you can describe that game is, he had everything going -- every spot he wanted."

Completely Roy Oswalt
Toronto at Houston, June 12, 2005
Roy Oswalt (7-7) picked up the victory with his second complete game of the season -- a two-hit shutout -- and seventh in his career. At one point, he retired 23 consecutive batters. His line:
IPHRERBBSOERA
9.0200032.85
Key numbers for Oswalt:
Pitches-strikes: 88-65; Groundouts-flyouts: 16-8;
Season strikeouts-walks: 70-23; WHIP: 1.10

Oswalt was aided by nearly flawless defense. In the seventh, Adam Everett made a spectacular play on a Vernon Wells grounder, throwing from deep in the hole to nab the Blue Jays center fielder by a half-step.

"Roy doesn't give out too many fist pumps or 'way to go's', but when he does, it means something," Everett said. "He gave me one today and it was nice to see that. He was definitely in the game, and he came with his 'A' game."

Toronto right-hander Josh Towers was nearly as efficient as Oswalt, and only a Jason Lane solo homer separated the two teams through six innings. The Astros gained some breathing room in the seventh when Lane led off with a double to right-center and advanced to third on Everett's grounder to the right side. Ausmus was intentionally walked and advanced to second on Oswalt's bunt.

In most cases, the grounder Willy Taveras bounced toward second would be a close out, but the speedster was easily safe at first and would have been even if Orlando Hudson hadn't thrown wildly. As a result, not only did Lane score, but Ausmus did, too, and Oswalt was able to work with a three-run lead.

"Anytime you've got a guy that can run like that, you have to respect the bunt and you have to respect when he gets on base," Oswalt said. "Speed's a big part of the game and it's something we haven't had here in a while. Willy's bringing it now."

Said Garner: "He can beat it out and it forces the infielder to try to hurry and the infielder ends up making a mistake. Instead of him being safe and the infielder making a good throw and getting one run out of it, he hurries the throw, makes a wide throw and we get two runs out of it."

The game was over so quickly the Astros had to wait around for more than an hour and a half before they departed for the airport. The quick game beat the Minute Maid Park record by four minutes.

"That means [Oswalt] took care of business very quickly," Garner said. "[Towers] was throwing quickly, too. At one point, I looked at the board and saw he had 26 pitches and 23 strikes. Both guys were attacking the zone today. It was a well-paced ballgame, and the good news is that we came out on top."

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