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Oswalt, Astros beats Reds; both still playoff longshots

HOUSTON (AP) -- Roy Oswalt doesn't have an explanation for his
domination of the Cincinnati Reds. He just wants to keep it going.

Oswalt pitched 6 2/3 innings in another strong performance
against Cincinnati, leading the Houston Astros to a 5-3 win Monday
night.

Oswalt (14-8) allowed two runs and eight hits to improve his
career record to 17-1 when facing the Reds. He struck out eight and
didn't walk a batter before departing with muscle spasms in his
neck.

Oswalt was 15-0 against Cincinnati until April 28, the longest
streak without a loss for one pitcher against one team in major
league history. He lost that day but started another streak against
the Reds with a win at Cincinnati on Aug. 23.

"I don't try to figure it out," Oswalt said. "It's not like
it's the same players. They've changed almost all the players since
I've been here. They're a whole different team so I don't know.

"Hopefully, they don't turn the tables and win 17 in a row over
me."

The Astros kept their fleeting wild card hopes alive as they
crept to within six games of the lead pending the outcome of the
Dodgers-Padres game later. The Reds slipped to 5½ games back in the
wild-card race.

Oswalt, who is 5-0 with a no-decision in his last six starts,
had just given up a pinch-hit home run to Ray Olmedo and a single
to Ryan Freel in the seventh when he called team officials to the
mound before leaving the game.

"It's no big deal," Oswalt said of the injury. "I got a
little too far out on a curveball in the third inning when it first
happened. I felt better and better after that, but in the sixth I
threw another curve and it tightened up again. I don't think I'll
miss any time with it."

Manager Phil Garner is glad to hear that.

"He's one of those rare pitchers," Garner said. "We're
blessed with a couple of them. Every time they go out, they have
good stuff."

Shortstop Adam Everett saved a run for Oswalt in the second
inning. Chris Denorfia hit a sharp grounder up the middle with
runners on first and third. Everett made a spectacular horizontal
dive to grab the ball and flipped it from his glove to second
baseman Craig Biggio to start an inning-ending double play.

"That turned the game around," Garner said. "It turned the
momentum our way."

Reds manager Jerry Narron also pointed to Everett's big play.

"We had some guys swinging the bats well," Narron said. "Roy
Oswalt's as good as there is but we got some pretty good swings at
him. If Dino's ball goes through the outfield, we score early off
him.

"Dino hits a rocket for a double play and [Brad] Ausmus hits a
blooper for a hit, but that's just baseball. That's part of it."

In the bottom half, the Astros loaded the bases and Ausmus hit a
two-run single to center. After Oswalt sacrificed the runners over,
Biggio and Mike Lamb hit back-to-back, run-scoring singles to make
it 4-0.

Dan Wheeler allowed pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth's solo homer
in the ninth before finishing for his sixth save in eight chances.

Kyle Lohse (2-4) went six innings for the Reds and allowed four
runs and six hits with three walks. Cincinnati is 2-7 in Lohse's
nine starts with the team.

"I lost my command for a couple of hitters there in a row,"
Lohse said. "After that I felt I came back and it's just one of
those things you wished hadn't happened. I felt like I kept us in
the game after that.

"It's tough when you're going up against a guy like Oswalt."

Adam Dunn and Rich Aurilia had consecutive doubles in the sixth
inning to get Cincinnati's first run.

Freel dove for Luke Scott's hit into center field in the seventh
and missed it, giving Scott a run-scoring triple and a 5-2 lead.

Game Notes
Oswalt recorded his 1,000th career strikeout when he fanned
Lohse in the third inning. ... Dunn's first-inning double ended an
0-for-15 streak, his longest without a hit this season. ... Freel
attempted to get his career-high 38th steal of the season in the
seventh, but was thrown out by Ausmus to end the inning. ...
Olmedo's homer was his first of the season.