Kent and the Los Angeles Dodgers relied on that knowledge Saturday night, scoring five runs in the first inning en route to an 8-3 victory over the Astros.
Jose Cruz Jr. had three RBI and Kent added a solo homer against reliever Mike Burns, making him the first player to hit 300 homers as a second baseman.
"I played with Oswalt for two years, and the best chance to get him is to get him before he's warmed up -- because he's so good," Kent said. "He was quick-pitching us, as he normally does, but a lot of his pitches were for balls.
"Before we had a chance to get our own rhythm against him, he was already putting himself behind in the count. So a lot of our hitters were patient with some of their swings and we were able to put a lot of runners on base."
Edwin Jackson (1-1) pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs and six hits, including a three-run homer by Chris Burke that chased the rookie right-hander after he was staked to a 7-0 lead. Jackson, recalled from Double-A Jacksonville on Aug. 22, after Odalis Perez went on the disabled list, stranded four runners in scoring position.
"We're just not getting guys on base, and we're certainly not driving them in when we do," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "Everybody's frustrated. We've gone two weeks now without really much of an offensive threat. The real problem is that we're not getting the bats in the zone very good right now."
Oswalt (15-11) allowed seven runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, his shortest outing this season and the first time in 21 starts that he failed to go at least six. The right-hander, who last year was the only NL pitcher to win 20 games, is 1-3 with a 2.94 ERA over his last six starts after going 8-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his previous nine outings.
"He's had a couple of games when he actually looked a little bit human -- but sometimes we have to pick him up, too," Garner said. "Sometimes, you have to outscore the other team."
One night after watching teammate Andy Pettitte strike out the side in the first inning on 12 pitches, Oswalt failed to record an out until his 27th pitch, and did not retire any of his first seven batters. The Dodgers parlayed five hits and three walks -- two with the bases loaded -- into a five-run inning.
"It's probably the worst game I ever threw, that I could remember," Oswalt said. "It was a bad game all the way around -- walking people, not throwing the ball where I wanted to, getting behind guys -- it was one of those days. I was like a high school kid out there."
Antonio Perez began the outburst with a triple into the right-field corner, and was prevented from trying for an inside-the-park home run by third base coach Glenn Hoffman as the crowd groaned.
Oscar Robles followed with a double, Kent singled and Jason Phillips doubled home a run. Oswalt forced home another with a walk to Cruz, Dioner Navarro had an RBI single, and Jackson walked with the bases loaded after No. 8 hitter Jose Valentin flied to right for the first out.
"That was a surprise. We haven't seen that from Oswalt," Garner said. "He struggled with his command and just didn't look comfortable in that first inning. This is very much uncharacteristic of the way he's pitched."
Oswalt surrendered hits to the first three batters in the fifth, including a two-run double by Cruz that chased the first-time All-Star. Cruz, the son of the Astros' first-base coach, is 11-for-30 with six RBI when his father is in the other dugout. The younger Cruz spent the 2003 season with San Francisco.
Kent made it 8-3 in the sixth with his 23rd homer, the 325th of his 14-year career. The five-time All-Star ended Game 5 of last year's NL championship series with a three-run homer in the ninth inning for the Astros.
"I didn't think I was going to hit home runs in the big leagues," said Kent, whose career-high 37 homers in 2002 helped San Francisco get to the World Series. "I'm not a home run hitter. I try not to hit home runs. I drive the ball in the gaps, and if one gets up, great."
Regarding his latest achievement, the 2000 NL MVP added: "I didn't think I'd ever play this long, and it's passed by very quickly. It's still something that I'm just rolling with and not worrying about. I'll wait until the end of my career to add up the things that I've done.
- Houston 1B Jeff Bagwell, who has missed the last 105 games because of a shoulder injury that required surgery on June 7, took about 50 swings during batting practice. He could begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi as early as Tuesday.
- Astros RHP Brandon Backe is going to begin a rehab assignment with Corpus Christi on Monday and throw 45-50 pitches. He is slated for at least one more start with the Hooks after that before he is re-evaluated.