HOUSTON -- With a few extra days of rest ahead of him, Astros starter Roy Oswalt was hoping he'd be able to work deeper into his final start before the All-Star break.
But the right-hander's Friday night was cut short when he was forced to leave the Astros' 6-5 win over the Washington Nationals in the seventh inning. He suffered numbness in two fingers in his pitching hand, the aftereffects of his at-bat in the sixth inning.
Oswalt hit a ground ball to second base off the end of his bat to end the Astros' sixth inning. The sting from the contact was still with him when he went to take the mound in the seventh.
"He felt a little numbness on his finger, and after that at-bat he kind of felt it a little when he got out there," manager Cecil Cooper said.
Through six innings, Oswalt had allowed one run on three hits. The Nationals were able to get to the Astros ace in the seventh. Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham began the inning with back-to-back doubles. After making his first pitch -- a ball -- to the third batter of the inning, Josh Bard, he was visited by pitching coach Dewey Robinson and then head athletic trainer Nate Lucero and Cooper.
"I was throwing all my pitches for strikes," Oswalt said. "I wish I wouldn't have swung. Hitters get jammed a lot, but they don't have to throw the ball with finesse. It's a little different when you're trying to place the ball where you want to."
Oswalt said he started to say something to the Astros coaches about his hand before he took the mound in the seventh, but felt that he could get through the inning. He would exit after 87 pitches, tossing six-plus innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out six. He received no decision.
In his three previous starts, the 31-year-old had been dominant, allowing three earned runs and 12 hits in 23 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.81 from 4.48.
He was coming off wins in consecutive starts for the first time this season, throwing a two-hitter against San Diego on June 29 and then an eight-inning, three-hit gem against San Francisco on Sunday.
This isn't the first time Oswalt has had to leave a game with a finger issue. He left his May 5 start at Washington with a bone bruise on the index finger of his pitching hand, but he never missed a start. He isn't expected to miss any time this around.
"I thought maybe I could delay enough in the dugout to make the feeling come back in there. But [I] get out there, and the first batter, I'm throwing the ball and not really placing it," Oswalt said. "I knew I wasn't going to help us going out there just throwing the ball up there. I was hoping the bullpen would come in and shut them down. If I thought I could help the team by throwing the ball in the middle of the plate, I would have stayed out there, but I didn't think I would help too much throwing the ball in the middle of the plate."
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.