HOUSTON (Ticker) -- In a game that featured playoff-like intensity,
may have ended the St. Louis Cardinals' postseason dreams.
Oswalt combined with two relievers on a five-hitter and
delivered a key home run as the Astros remained atop the National League Central Division with a 2-0 triumph over the Cardinals.
Oswalt (8-5) missed the entire month of August with a chronic groin strain but has returned just in time for the Astros, who are one game ahead of the
and 4 1/2 in front of the Cardinals.
Houston's ace righthander allowed a double and three singles in seven innings. Throwing 65 of 94 pitches for strikes, Oswalt did not walk a batter and struck out eight.
"(Oswalt) was pretty sharp," batterymate
said. "It's nice to see him go seven innings. He looked strong the whole way. His curveball was the best it's been in a long time. I knew he looked good in the first inning."
struck out one in a hitless eighth and
worked around a hit in the ninth to notch his 42nd save.
Oswalt nearly was matched pitch for pitch by St. Louis ace
, who also has battled injuries this season. Morris (10-7) allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings, surrendering Bagwell's homer in the fourth.
"Oswalt was really sharp, and he had to be because of the way Morris was pitching on the other side," Houston manager
said. "Those two guys were going at each other, throwing 95 miles per hour. It was an outstanding matchup."
"You always try to elevate your game when you pitch against a guy like Morris," Oswalt said. "One more run is a plus, because one home run can't beat you. I told myself, 'Don't walk anybody, go after them and work both sides of the plate.' I had good life on the ball."
Bagwell's homer was his 35th this season and 415th career, moving him past
for 34th place on the all-time list.
"I fully expected it (a pitchers' duel)," Bagwell said. "Matty and Roy are two of the best pitchers in the game and they showed why tonight. Matty's a tremendous competitor. He comes right at you, throws a lot of strikes, doesn't waste a lot of time."
St. Louis has lost nine of 13 games to fall 7 1/2 games behind Florida in the wild card hunt.
"The starting pitching was really good," St. Louis manager
Tony La Russa
said. "We have no excuses. Oswalt was very tough. That was quality pitching. But somehow, some way, we have to get some runs."
had the game's first hit, a single in the second inning, but was stranded at second.
The Cardinals lost catcher
and pitching coach
in the third as both were ejected by plate umpire Jerry Crawford. The Cardinals' backstop was upset about Crawford's positioning behind the plate.
"Umpires have their hands on you and that's not a big deal," Matheny said. "I was trying to make some catches on some breaking balls and was shoved forward. I was talking to the umpire and letting him know what was going on. He seemed to take offense to that in the beginning.
"We tried to talk about it the next inning and he didn't seem to think there was going to be any change. He seemed to want to get confrontational about it, and that's what happened."
St. Louis could not cash in on a two-out double by
in the fourth, and Bagwell put Houston ahead with his second homer in as many games in the fourth.
"I got lucky," Bagwell said. "I was actually a little surprised that I hit it that well."
"I think it was a great (game)," Morris said. "It fires me up. I made a bad pitch to Bagwell, and he's their big bopper."
pushed Houston's edge to 2-0 with a two-out double in the fifth that scored Ausmus.
St. Louis wasted a leadoff single in the sixth but could not generate much of anything against Dotel and Wagner.
The Cardinals are 5-9 against the Astros this season.