Astros' offensive outburst garners win

Oswalt, Astros blitz Reds

CINCINNATI -- Roy Oswalt was hoping to ease his way back into the swing of things when he took the mound for the first time in nine days, but the Cincinnati Reds had other plans.

Plans that altered Oswalt's mindset immediately, and after the right-hander gave up two quick runs to start the game, he held the Reds at bay for five more innings, leading the Astros to a 7-3 win before 24,873 on Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

Oswalt, fully recovered from a bruised hand he suffered on a comebacker during his start against the Cubs, gave up three consecutive hits in the opening frame. Brandon Phillips led off with a base hit and scored on a Scott Hatteberg single; Ken Griffey Jr. doubled home Hatteberg.

Oswalt, having seen enough, made sure that was it for the Reds, whom he has beaten 16 times in his career.

"I was hoping to go out there, hit a few spots early and not go all out and just get muscle memory going again," Oswalt said. "But they came out swinging, so I had to turn it up after the first inning."

He did. He struck out the side in the second and retired 18 of 20 to carry him through the sixth inning. His mission was to work as quickly as possible so that Reds left-hander Chris Michalak didn't have much time to rest in the dugout.

"I was thinking if I could keep him on the field as [much] as possible, by me getting in the dugout quicker, maybe we could wear them down," Oswalt said. "It worked today."

Manager Phil Garner noticed an added air of determination after Oswalt's rough first inning and knew he did not have to worry about his ace right-hander giving the club a quality start.

"After a frustrating start, Roy just buckled down and said, 'You're not getting anymore,'" Garner said. "That's what it looked like to me. He said, 'That's it. It's not going to happen.' That kind of lead the way and then we were able to put something on the board."

If it's true that good things happen to those who wait, the Astros certainly had Wednesday's win coming to them. Offensive breakouts have been infrequent, and while it's unlikely that this win propelled them back into the playoff hunt, the relatively easy win was a welcome change of pace.

"It was fun to have an offensive inning where we could get big hits and separate ourselves from the Reds a little bit there and get some breathing room," Chris Burke said. "We had some guys get some big hits that inning and it allowed us to take a sigh of relief."

Using his right-handed lineup against left-hander Michalak, Garner watched 11 Astros hitters put together a six-run seventh frame.

Brad Ausmus began the rally with a leadoff single off Michalak to left, and after Roy Oswalt sacrificed him to second, Todd Coffey walked Taveras and gave up an RBI single by Burke. Coffey intentionally walked Lance Berkman, and was thrown out by home plate umpire Wally Bell for arguing balls and strikes in the middle of Morgan Ensberg's plate appearance.

Ryan Franklin took over, walking Ensberg with the bases loaded. With Rheal Cormier on the mound, Aubrey Huff, pinch-hitting for J.R. House, knocked a two-run single to left. Jason Lane jumped into the fray, lining an RBI single to center, and Adam Everett, who homered in the fifth, capped the breakout inning with a run-scoring double to left.

"We showed some patience at the plate today, but then when we had to do something, we did," Garner said. "We had a couple guys with big hits today. Of course, Huff's hit probably broke it open. That was a big blow. And then Jason followed -- good things happened."

The Astros are far from out of the woods, of course. They're still seven games under .500 and six games behind the Reds in the NL Wild Card standings. But after losing the first two games of the series, it's a start.

"Every time Roy's on the mound, we feel great about our chances," Ensberg said. "We didn't score last night, which was a tough game. But you come the next day and you're ready to go. I think that we were waiting for an opportunity to get some runs. That opportunity finally opened up."

"Under the circumstances, it was very important," Garner said. "I would have liked to have won the first game [on Monday] and we didn't. Of course, yesterday was a no-chance kind of deal. We come out of here with the win, maybe we can build on it. That's certainly what we hope to do."

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