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Oswalt keeps record perfect against Reds

HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt didn't start a no-hitter this time. He just remained unbeaten against Cincinnati.

Oswalt shut down the Reds, and Richard Hidalgo backed him with a three-run double as the Houston Astros won 7-1 Monday night.

Oswalt allowed one run and three hits in six innings. He had pitched only one inning in his previous outing before the groin acted up for the second time this season.

In that game against the Yankees, five relievers followed and combined on the first six-pitcher no-hitter in major league history. It also was the first no-hitter against the Yankees since 1958 and the first against them at Yankee Stadium since 1952.

Against the Reds, Oswalt (5-4) improved to 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 10 starts against Cincinnati. He said he didn't know what the numbers were and didn't want anyone to tell him.

''If I'm unbeaten against them, hopefully I'll stay that way,'' he said. ''I know they have a good lineup. They have the type of lineup that likes to swing early. For me, that helps out because if I can throw a couple of good pitches and get some of them, I have to throw less pitches.''

Because he was making his first start since going on the disabled list June 12 with a strained right groin, Oswalt was scheduled to go only five innings. He went six because he had a low pitch count and ended up throwing only 74 pitches, 50 for strikes.

Oswalt said Houston manager Jimy Williams and his coaches worried about him during the first two innings.

''They could tell I wasn't throwing for my normal velocity,'' Oswalt said. ''I told them I was just working on location. I wasn't trying to throw it that hard.''

It was good enough to beat the Reds.

''The farther he got into the game, the more comfortable and relaxed he looked,'' Williams said. ''I think he settled in more each inning.''

Teammates were glad to see Oswalt return. He struck out just three, a sign that he wasn't totally sharp.

''I've been watching him working hard while he's been on the DL,'' Geoff Blum said. ''I know he's not back to the level he wants to be at, but it's a credit to how good a pitcher he is that he did so well. He used his defense, and he normally doesn't have to do that that much.''

The Reds were impressed.

''He pitched well,'' Barry Larkin said. ''Obviously he's not 100 percent. He threw some things up there close to his normal self. But he pitched very well.''

Houston stopped a three-game losing streak and sent the Reds to their fifth straight loss, matching their season high. Cincinnati was held to four hits by Oswalt, Ricky Stone and Billy Wagner.

Ryan Dempster (2-6), making his second career start on three days' rest, gave up six runs and seven hits in four innings. He also lost on short rest to San Francisco on May 4.

All-Star Aaron Boone put the Reds ahead with an RBI single in the first, but Houston took a 4-1 lead in the third when Jeff Bagwell singled home a run and Hidalgo followed with a double to left-center.