Friday, 7:35 PM Woody Williams (3-9, 5.50 ERA) vs. Kevin Millwood (3-6, 7.62 ERA)
Last Sunday against the Reds, Kevin Millwood gave up four runs on six hits over six innings and struck out a season-high 10 batters. Things started out ominously enough for the right-hander as he allowed eight of the first 14 batters to reach base. But Millwood managed to turn it around and, backed by a big cushion provided by the Texas bats, retired 12 of the last 13 batters. A large portion of his success in that game should be given to his breaking ball, which Millwood effectively used to work both sides of the plate, having just the right amount of snap to it. But the victory was still only his first since April 13. In nine career starts against Houston, Millwood is 5-3 with a 3.38 ERA.
The last time Woody Williams took the hill against the Rangers, it was the beginning of what would be a pinball game type of afternoon for the Astros pitching staff. Since then he's begun to turn a corner, although his record won't necessarily show it. In his most recent outing on June 11th, the Williams retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced en route to a 9-4 victory over the Mariners. Unlike what transpired in his May outing against the Rangers, last week against Seattle the righty was aggressive and got ahead of a large amount of batters. The Astros offense responded with some reliable offense of their own, and the result was a comfortable amount of wiggle room for the 40-year old to pick up the win.
Saturday, 2:55 PM: Roy Oswalt (7-4, 3.51) vs. Jamey Wright (0-1, 10.57)
Wright lost in his return from the disabled list last Saturday thanks to two Ken Griffey Jr. homeruns and an Adam Dunn moonshot to right field. He allowed only four runs over five innings of work, but Cincinnati pounded out nine hits. However, he was saved by a defense around him that turned three double plays and also threw out two would-be base stealers. You have to figure that, should he struggle on Saturday, Wright may get at least one more shot after that to show he can contribute before the Rangers begin to look at other options.
Roy Oswalt was really racking up the K's this past homestand for the Houston Astros. In two starts against Seattle and Oakland, the two time 20-game winner struck out a total of 16 batters over 11 2/3 innings of action. In his last time on the hill, the Mariners gave Oswalt all they could muster, working the count in many at-bats and pounding out 12 hits against the right-hander. But he allowed only three runs en route to picking up his first victory since May 12th. With a win Saturday, Oswalt can tie Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan for fifth place on the franchise's all-time win list.
Sunday, 7:35: Chris Sampson (6-5, 3.70) vs. Robinson Tejeda (5-7, 6.29)
Two homeruns by second baseman Ian Kinsler couldn't save Robinson Tejeda from trouble his last start against the Cubs. He allowed two runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings, but escaped without a decision by leaving with a 4-4 tie. But nevertheless, it was the latest in what has been a marked downward spiral taken by a guy who ended last year and entered into this season on a very promising note. He continues to allow way too many basrunners (13 in his last start against the Cubs), which is always a recipe for disaster. In his 14 starts this season, only four of them (4/6, 4/17, 4/22, and 5/3) have been quality ones.
For twenty-nine year old Chris Sampson, it'll be his first time to face the Texas Rangers. The Houston area native was singled to death by the Angels last time out to the tune of 14 hits, 12 of which were of the one base variety. When Sampson exited in the seventh inning, he did so with a five run lead, but the Houston bullpen couldn't get the job done in a 10-9 loss. That came on the heels of his last outing where he out-dueled Joe Blanton of the A's, but still was dealt another loss by the bullpen. On that occasion, it was Dan Wheeler who allowed three runs to score in the Oakland half of the eighth.. Of course, that led to the much ballyhooed shove in the dugout between Wheeler and Sampson, who have since made up with each other.