Astros begin run against Marlins

Astros begin 2006 run against Marlins

Doing the same thing for a living as Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte can have its benefits.

In Roy Oswalt's case, this has allowed for him to go through life in relative anonymity the last two years. An unassuming figure in the Astros clubhouse, Oswalt prefers to succeed without the glare of the spotlight. He also would like to be viewed as just another one of five starting pitchers in the Astros rotation.

But clearly, Oswalt's special, and as he heads into his fifth full season in the Major Leagues, he's no longer baseball's best-kept secret.

For all of Pettitte's accomplishments, both last year and through his stellar decade-plus in the Majors, there was never any doubt who the Astros' Opening Day starter would be. A back-to-back 20-game winner, Oswalt will make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start, one shy of the club record, held by Shane Reynolds (1996-2000), J.R. Richard (1976-80) and Mike Scott (1987-91).

"In a sense you underappreciate him," Garner said of Oswalt. "He's not a flamboyant guy. He really shuns the spotlight.

"With Clemens and Pettitte, you've got two of the greatest pitchers -- Clemens for the past, what, six decades, and Pettitte over a decade. We've had those guys on this team, so you tend to overlook what Roy does. He's very comfortable with going about his business and doing this thing without much fanfare."

Oswalt "outed" himself a bit last October when he carried the Astros on his shoulders in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, holding the Cardinals to a lone run over seven innings in Houston's pennant-clinching, 5-1 win in St. Louis. Quickly, life changed. Within two days, he was reading the Top 10 list on "The Late Show with David Letterman." A couple of months later, he was mugging for the cameras while sitting atop a bright yellow bulldozer, a gift compliments of Drayton McLane.

But the fun's over, and Oswalt is back to business. One game isn't going to make or break a season, but Oswalt's teammates are comforted with the notion of the right-hander taking the mound for the official start of the Astros' season.

"You look at last year's big three, Roy, Andy and Rocket," Craig Biggio said. "Anybody would die for any one of those. Not to put any extra pressure on him, but I think [Roy's] only getting better. As you get older, you get smarter, you learn more, you come up with different stuff. I only expect him to get better than what he's doing now, which is pretty scary."

Oswalt's 40 wins in the last two seasons is the most by any Major League pitcher, one ahead of Bartolo Colon's 39. Oswalt is ranked third among active pitchers with at least 120 career decisions with a .680 winning percentage. He's finished in the top five in NL Cy Young voting in each of the last two years.

And to think, he's only 28.

"As a catcher, it makes it very easy to call a game because he has so many weapons to choose from," Brad Ausmus said. "With his velocity, if he makes a mistake with location, he's got a better chance of getting away with that mistake -- better than the average fireballer."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt
• 20-12, 2.94 ERA in 2005
• 0-1, 2.35 ERA in 2005 vs. FLA
• 2-2, 2.52 ERA lifetime vs. FLA

FLA: LHP Dontrelle Willis
• 22-10, 2.63 ERA in 2005
• 2-0, 1.59 ERA in 2005 vs. HOU
• 3-1, 3.00 ERA lifetime vs. HOU

  Astros probable lineup
1.2BCraig Biggio
2.CFWilly Taveras
3.1BLance Berkman
4.3BMorgan Ensberg
5.LFPreston Wilson
6.RFJason Lane
7.CBrad Ausmus
8.SSAdam Everett
9.PRoy Oswalt

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• HOU: KTRH 740, KLAT (Español)
• FLA: WQAM 560, WQBA 1140 (Español)

As long as the rain stays away, the roof will be open. Now, about that roof...

On deck
• Tuesday: vs. Marlins, 7:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: vs. Marlins, 7:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: vs. Nationals, 7:05 p.m. CT

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