(Sports Network) - Nobody expects new Houston Astros starter J.A. Happ to replace the traded Roy Oswalt, yet that is what the young left-hander must do tonight.
One day after getting dealt to the Astros in a deal that sent Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies, Happ will make a quick Houston debut this evening in the opener of a three-game series versus the Milwaukee Brewers at Minute Maid Park.
With Houston 17 games under .500 and 14 games out of first place in the National League Central, the Astros decided to look to the future on Thursday, sending the veteran Oswalt to the Phillies along with cash for Happ and a pair of minor league players. One of those minor leaguers, outfielder Anthony Gose, was then flipped to Toronto for highly-regarded first base prospect Brett Wallace.
"Obviously, I was a little shocked and a little surprised [Thursday], but I'm definitely looking on the positive," Happ told Houston's website. "I hope to be a part of their future and help turn things around there. It's nice to go to a team that wants you. I want to go down there and pitch well and see what happens."
Happ went 12-4 with a 2.93 earned run average in 35 games (23 starts) last year, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He made two April starts before getting sidelined for over three months due to a forearm injury, returning on Sunday to face Colorado. The 27-year-old got a no-decision in his return after allowing three runs on four hits and four walks over five innings, giving him a 1-0 mark and 1.76 ERA on the season.
The left-hander has made just one career start at Minute Maid Park, throwing five scoreless innings of six-hit ball in a victory over the Astros, and is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA lifetime versus the Brewers.
Oswalt, who waived a no-trade clause to make the deal happen, was scheduled to start tonight for the Astros, but he will instead be pitching with the Phillies. The former All-Star went 143-82 with a 3.24 ERA in 303 games (291 starts) over nine-plus seasons with Houston, leaving one win shy of matching Joe Niekro for the most in club history.
After an off day on Thursday, the Astros resume their nine-game homestand. They have split the first six matchups of the swing, taking two of three over the Cubs earlier in the week.
Houston has won all four of its series this year with Chicago after taking Wednesday's rubber match, 8-1. Carlos Lee had a pair of two-run homers and Bud Norris gave up just one unearned run over six innings.
Third baseman Chris Johnson went 1-for-4 at the plate to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Houston rookie since Julio Lugo's 14-game run in 2000.
Happ failed to catch a break tonight in regards to facing All-Star Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart, who is expected to play for the first time in six games after missing time due to a sore right thumb and wrist. The slugger is batting .292 with 22 homers and 70 RBI this year.
Minus Hart on Wednesday, the Brewers dropped a rubber match with Cincinnati, 10-2. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy both drove in a run for Milwaukee, while starter Chris Narveson allowed three runs over five-plus innings to take the loss.
"Narveson pitched five good innings and we had a rested bullpen, so that's why I played it that way," said Brewers manager Ken Macha. "If there's one consistency he's had, it's that he's had one bad inning in a lot of his starts. So that was the thought process, to not let it snowball."
Milwaukee has lost two in a row since a five-game win streak and hope that Manny Parra can earn his first victory since July 3 tonight.
The 27-year-old is 0-2 with an 8.82 ERA in three starts since that win. He was drilled for 10 runs over 5 1/3 innings of a loss to the Braves on July 18, but rebounded in a no-decision against the Nationals on Saturday. Parra allowed just two runs on four hits and three walks over six innings.
Parra is 3-7 with a 5.33 ERA this year and 4-3 with a 5.18 ERA in eight lifetime starts versus Houston. The left-hander got a no-decision against the club on June 28 after yielding four runs on seven hits and four walks over five frames of work.
The Brewers and Astros have split six games so far this year, with each meeting taking place in Milwaukee.