Houston native Woody Williams said he's always wanted to play for his hometown team. On Wednesday night, the 40-year-old right-hander may be under some added pressure when that dream becomes reality.
The Astros will try to avoid being swept in a season-opening series for the first time in 14 years when they play host to the Pittsburgh Pirates."It's a long time coming and something I've always wanted to do," Williams said in February. "I'm here and it's so nice to put on this uniform, so nice to have the opportunity to play in my hometown. I can't wait for us to start playing."Houston (0-2) hasn't lost three straight to start a season since 1993, and it hasn't been swept at home in a three-game set by Pittsburgh since May 14-16, 1991.To avoid that, the Astros will turn to Williams, who led San Diego with 12 wins in only 24 starts last year. He tried to join the Astros twice before but the sides couldn't agree on a contract.In November, the Astros inked the former University of Houston pitcher to a two-year, $12.5 million deal to be their No. 3 starter, backing up ace Roy Oswalt and newcomer Jason Jennings."When you spend your whole life focusing on one goal and it finally comes, it's very, very meaningful," said Williams, now starting his 15th major league season. "I've always wanted to be an Astro. It was a lot less to do with baseball. I just wanted to be a part of that team."Williams' nine wins were the most by an opposing pitcher at Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000. He also fills a veteran leadership void with Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens no longer on the Astros' staff."I can't be Roger, I can't be Andy," he said. "All I can do is, when they give me the ball, go out and do what I know I can do. Who I am is who I am. For them to ask me to be somebody else, I can't do it."Houston's other major offseason acquisition -- left fielder Carlos Lee -- has gotten off to a slow start. After going hitless in four at-bats during a 4-2, 10-inning loss Monday, he went 1-for-4 with an RBI and two strikeouts in a 3-2 defeat on Tuesday night.Pittsburgh (2-0) entered 2007 with a streak of 14 straight losing seasons. Now, the Pirates need a win for their first season-opening series sweep since 2003.Xavier Nady is perhaps the biggest reason for Pittsburgh's hot start. The right fielder has homered in each of the Pirates' first two games, and added a go-ahead single on Tuesday. He's hit 15 of his 44 career homers in April."It's just one of those things. It's still early and I'm just trying to give quality at-bats," said Nady, who played in 130 games with the New York Mets and Pirates last season, missing time with a sore lower back and later an appendectomy.Tom Gorzelanny makes his season debut for the Pirates. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 5.19 ERA in three career starts against Houston despite a .238 opponent batting average.Pittsburgh already has been assured of only its fifth winning series at Minute Maid Park.