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Padres-Astros Preview

May 10, 2009 - 4:52 AM By DAN PIERINGER STATS Writer

San Diego (13-17) at Houston (12-17), 2:05 p.m. EDT

The San Diego Padres finally broke through against the Houston Astros' struggling bullpen but still couldn't pull out a win.

With Roy Oswalt taking the mound in the finale, San Diego may again have to be patient for its scoring chances.

Oswalt looks to continue his dominance of the Padres and give the Astros their first three-game sweep of 2009 on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

After getting dominated by starter Brian Moehler for seven innings on Saturday night, San Diego (13-18) took a 4-3 lead by scoring three runs off Astros relievers in the eighth.

Houston's bullpen has blown four of five save opportunities while giving up 22 runs - 20 earned - in 21 2-3 innings over the last six games, including a disheartening performance at Washington on Tuesday. That game was suspended in the 11th inning with the teams tied 10-all.

Despite their bullpen issues against the Padres on Saturday, the Astros (13-17) answered with two runs in the bottom half of the eighth en route to a 5-4 victory and putting themselves in position for their first sweep of the year.

The Astros have to like their chances doing so with Oswalt (0-2, 4.26 ERA) taking the mound. The right-hander is 8-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 13 career games - 11 starts - against the Padres. He's also won three straight home starts against them, posting a 1.57 ERA.

Though he's been effective against San Diego, Oswalt is still looking for his first win this season. He left his last start Tuesday with an injured finger on his pitching hand after giving up four runs and four hits over five innings against the Nationals. That game will resume July 9 in Houston.

Oswalt said the injury was a bone bruise on his index finger, but he never expected to miss a start.

Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, a career .329 hitter against Houston, is 5-for-10 with a home run and two strikeouts lifetime against Oswalt.

Oswalt hopes some support from outfielder Hunter Pence will help him get in the win column. Pence is 12-for-32 (.375) with three RBIs and six runs scored in nine games this month. He drove in both runs in a 2-0 win Friday and scored the go-ahead run with no outs in the eighth inning Saturday, racing home from third base on a chopper to the pitcher.

"I was saying no, no, no," manager Cecil Cooper said, "then I was saying yes, yes. That's just Hunter's aggressiveness. Sometimes he's a little too aggressive but I wouldn't change a thing about him. That's how we want him to play."

Giving up the lead obviously wasn't an ideal result for Padres manager Bud Black, but he was encouraged nonetheless with his team's comeback.

"It was a great sign we rallied, got some big hits," he said. "I hope this is a sign of things to come."

The Padres will hand the ball to Josh Geer (0-0, 3.96) for his first start in Houston since he starred at nearby Rice University. The right-hander was very sharp in his last outing Tuesday, pitching a career-high eight innings and holding Colorado to one run and five hits in San Diego's 2-1, 10-inning victory.

"He's getting a good feel for what he needs to do to win games," Black said of Geer, who has never faced the Astros.