Houston Astros 20-Game Winners
by Bob Hulsey

Last updated: August 4, 2009

The Houston franchise has averaged roughly two 20-win seasons per decade. It's been done nine times by seven players through 2005. With the emergence of five-man rotations, pitch counts and quick hooks, the 20-win season - a fairly common major league occurance through the 1970s - is in decline but trends may yet change again. Since 1997, not only has the 20-win plateau been reached by an Astro three times, but three other pitchers reached 19 wins in a season.

Listed below are the moundsmen who have reached 20 wins as a Houston Astro (select, or page down, for details):

Also, check out "20-Win Trivia"

(c) Houston Astros
Larry Dierker - 1969
(20-13, 2.33 ERA, 305.1 IP, 240 H, 232 K, 72 BB, 20 CG, 4 SO)

The 22-year-old righthander came into his own, becoming the first Houston pitcher to reach 20 wins in a season. The lanky Californian did so on a squad that reached 81 wins for the first time in team history. Dierker lost his last three starts in a bid for 21 wins.

Record at All-Star Break:12-7
Best Month:May (5-1)
Most Dominant Against:New York Mets (4-0)
20th Win:Gave up five hits in seven innings during a 2-1 win at San Francisco Sep 17 with relief help from Jim Bouton.
Cy Young Award Voting:No votes (Tom Seaver won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 23 - Tossed a two-hit shutout vs. San Diego, 4-0.
  • May 7 - Struck out 14 in a 4-1 five-hitter at Philadelphia.
  • Jun 8 - Outdueled Steve Carlton for a 2-1 11-inning win over St. Louis, singling home the game-winning run.
  • Jul 12 - Fanned 10 and drove in two in a 10-4 win over Cincinnati.
  • Jul 30 - Homered off Nolan Ryan in an 11-5 triumph at New York.
  • Aug 30 - Struck out 14 Pirates in a 2-1 victory at the Dome.
  • Sep 5 - Outpitched Gaylord Perry in a 2-0 shutout over the Giants.
  • Sep 13 - Pitched 8-2/3rd innings of no-hit ball and 12 innings of shutout ball before losing 3-2 in Atlanta.

(c) Houston Astros
J.R. Richard - 1976
(20-15, 2.75 ERA, 291 IP, 221 H, 214 K, 151 BB, 14 CG, 3 SO)

The 26-year-old 6'-8" giant made big strides in his second full season in the majors, establishing himself as a force for the rest of the decade. Richard reached 20 wins on the final day of the season. J.R. also hit two of his 10 career homers that year.

Record at All-Star Break:9-9
Best Month:July (5-2)
Most Dominant Against:Chicago Cubs (3-0)
20th Win:Pitched a four-hitter, striking out 13 and belting a two- run homer in a 10-1 win over the Giants on Oct 2.
Cy Young Award Voting:7th place, 2 points (Randy Jones won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 12 - Combined with two hurlers on a 5-0 shutout of the Giants.
  • May 7 - Tossed a six-hit complete game and added a sacrifice fly in a 3-1 win at St. Louis.
  • Jul 6 - Fired a 10-inning shutout at the Mets, 1-0, surviving eight hits, ten walks and two wild pitches.
  • Jul 27 - Four-hit the Padres, 4-1, with only three strikeouts.
  • Jul 31 - Another four-hit complete game, dropping Atlanta, 2-1.
  • Aug 4 - Struck out 10 Dodgers in a 1-0 shutout, a six-hitter.
  • Aug 8 - Streak of innings without an earned run reached 37-1/3rd before eighth inning meltdown in 4-3 loss at San Diego.
  • Aug 26 - Homered off Rick Reuschel in a 5-3 win at Chicago.
  • Sep 28 - Blanked Los Angeles again, 1-0, on a three-hitter.

(c) Houston Astros
Joe Niekro - 1979
(21-11, 3.00 ERA, 263.2 IP, 221 H, 119 K, 107 BB, 11 CG, 5 SO)

The 34-year-old knuckleballer put it all together, sharing the league lead in wins (21) with his brother Phil of Atlanta. He finished second in the Cy Young balloting, splitting votes with teammate J.R. Richard who was third.

Record at All-Star Break13-4
Best Month:May (6-0)
Most Dominant Against:San Diego Padres (5-0)
20th Win:In a fierce pennant race with the Reds, Niekro beat them on Sep 22, 4-1, allowing five hits in eight innings.
Cy Young Award Voting:2nd place (9 of 24 firsts), 66 points (Bruce Sutter won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 8 - Blanked Atlanta on a five-hitter for season-opening sweep.
  • May 13 - Fired another five-hit shutout, this time to the Cubs, 3-0.
  • May 18 - Pitched a four-hit complete-game 3-2 win over San Diego.
  • May 26 - Tossed a six-hit shutout in San Diego, 9-0.
  • Jun 8 - Shut out the Mets, 5-0, on a four-hitter.
  • Jun 13 - Nipped the Phillies, 4-3, for his ninth straight victory.
  • Jul 23 - Hurled a complete-game six-hitter at St. Louis, 3-2.
  • Aug 20 - Stopped the Mets on a two-hitter, 8-1, for his 17th win.
  • Sep 17 - Outdueled Bob Owchinko for a 1-0 shutout of the Padres.
  • Sep 30 - Edged the Dodgers, 3-2, in the season finale to notch his 21st victory.

(c) Houston Astros
Joe Niekro - 1980
(20-12, 3.55 ERA, 256 IP, 268 H, 127 K, 79 BB, 11 CG, 2 SO)

The following season, Niekro becomes the first Astro to win 20 games twice. He and the Astros both get one extra game added to the season to reach the milestones they needed. Joe helped himself, batting .275 on the year and driving in 10 runs. Niekro also threw 10 innings of shutout ball in Game 3 of the NLCS.

Record at All-Star Break:9-7
Best Month:September (4-1)
Most Dominant Against:Cincinnati Reds (4-1)
20th Win:In one of the most celebrated victories in franchise history, Niekro tossed a complete-game six-hitter in Los Angeles, 7-1, to win a playoff for the N.L. West title.
Cy Young Award Voting:4th place, 11 points (Steve Carlton won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 15 - Tossed six-hit complete game to stop Atlanta, 6-2.
  • Apr 26 - Combined with Frank LaCorte on a five-hit shutout, 6-0, over the Mets.
  • Jun 7 - Blanked the Giants on a five-hitter, 3-0.
  • Jun 26 - Shut out the Cardinals, 3-0, on a six-hitter.
  • Jul 27 - Went three-for-three at the plate while picking up his 11th victory, downing the Expos, 6-3.
  • Aug 23 - Entered a shutout tie with the Cubs in the 16th and hit the game-winner in the 17th for a 1-0 triumph.
  • Sep 6 - Drilled two hits, including a double, while stopping St. Louis, 9-5.
  • Sep 22 - Hurled a four-hitter, handcuffing the Padres, 4-2.
  • Sep 27 - Teamed with Dave Smith to shutout of the Reds, 2-0.

(c) Houston Astros
Mike Scott - 1989
(20-10, 3.10 ERA, 229 IP, 180 H, 172 K, 62 BB, 9 CG, 2 SO)

Nobody knew the 34-year-old righthander was nearing the end of his career when he put together his winningest season. His career reborn five years earlier with the use of the split-fingered fastball, Scott's heroics kept the Astros in the race for the division crown until the final weeks of the season. He would win just nine games after that.

Record at All-Star Break:14-5
Best Month:June (6-1)
Most Dominant Against:Los Angeles Dodgers (5-2)
20th Win:The bats took over early in an 11-3 laugher on Sep 14. Scott allowed five Dodger hits over seven innings.
Cy Young Award Voting:2nd place (4 of 24 firsts), 65 points (Mark Davis won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 4 - Drove in two and wins Opening Day over Atlanta, 10-3.
  • Apr 25 - Scattered four hits in 4-1 complete game win over Phillies.
  • May 14 - Tossed another four-hitter in Chicago for a 5-1 victory.
  • May 19 - Fired seven no-hit innings versus Pittsburgh and ended with a one-hitter, 3-0.
  • Jun 2 - Outpitched Fernando Valenzuela with four-hit, 1-0 shutout over Los Angeles.
  • Jun 4 - Entered in 13th inning of tie with Dodgers, gets three outs then swats a game-winning sacrifice fly for a 7-6 triumph.
  • Jul 21 - Allowed five hits in seven frames to stop the Phillies, 4-2.
  • Jul 28 - Struck out 11 Dodgers, giving up four hits in a 6-2 win.
  • Aug 30 - Hurled a four-hit complete game over the Cubs, 8-4.
  • Sep 9 - Dealt a three-hitter in a 4-1 victory over the Giants.

(c) Houston Astros
Jose Lima - 1999
(21-10, 3.58 ERA, 246.1 IP, 256 H, 187 K, 44 BB, 3 CG, 0 SO)

With demonstrative reactions and a salsa beat, the 26-year-old righty had his best season. Lima teamed with Mike Hampton for a powerful one-two punch in the Houston rotation. The Astros needed every win that year to eke past the Reds for the division title.

Record at All-Star Break:13-4
Best Month:May (5-1).
Most Dominant Against:Milwaukee Brewers (2-0)
20th Win:Accomplishing a goal he set before the season, Lima gave up three runs and seven hits over seven innings in beating the Cubs, 5-3.
Cy Young Award Voting:Tied for fourth place (3 points) Tied with teammate Billy Wagner (Randy Johnson won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 26 - Pitched eight strong innings in a 5-2 win over Arizona.
  • May 7 - Tossed complete game 5-2 win over the Expos and gets two hits including an RBI single.
  • May 23 - Gave up one run and four hits over eight innings to knock off the Giants, 4-1.
  • Jun 2 - Fired a complete-game four-hitter and scored a run in a 9-1 mauling of Milwaukee.
  • Jun 12 - Fanned 10 over eight innings, nipping the Padres, 3-2.
  • Aug 6 - Allowed one run in halting the Cubs at Wrigley, 6-1.
  • Aug 16 - Teamed with Billy Wagner on a two-hit 2-0 shutout of the Brewers.
  • Aug 27 - Surrendered no earned runs over eight innings during 6-2 victory over the Mets.
  • Oct 2 - Combined with Billy Wagner to blank the Dodgers, 3-0, to clinch a tie for the division title and pick up his 21st win.

(c) Houston Astros
Mike Hampton - 1999
(22-4, 2.90 ERA, 239 IP, 206 H, 177 K, 101 BB, 3 CG, 2 SO)

In the best campaign ever for a Houston lefthander, the 26-year-old set a club record for most wins in a season. Mike was almost unbeatable in the second half, losing just once after the All-Star Break. Hampton helped himself with a .311 batting average and 10 RBIs. He was traded to the Mets the following December over a salary dispute.

Record at All-Star Break:11-3
Best Month:June (5-1)
Most Dominant Against:Philadelphia Phillies (2-0)
20th Win:Tossed a seven-inning two-run effort while producing a run of his own in a 13-2 win over Philadelphia on Sep 13.
Cy Young Award Voting:2nd place (11 of 32 firsts), 110 pts (Randy Johnson won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 26 - Threw eight innings of four-hit ball and added a two-run double to trip Arizona, 5-2.
  • May 4 - Tripled and scored in a 6-1 win over the Mets. He allowed just two hits over seven innings.
  • May 10 - Fired a five-hit shutout to blank the Pirates, 6-0.
  • Jul 18 - Hurled a four-hit shutout of the Indians, 2-0.
  • Jul 23 - Pitched a complete game in a 7-4 win over San Diego.
  • Jul 28 - Swatted three hits, including another triple, and drove in two during a 16-8 slugfest in Colorado.
  • Sep 8 - Tossed seven innings of shutout ball and added two hits in a 10-2 drubbing of the Phillies.
  • Sep 29 - Dropped Reds, 4-1, in key pennant race duel.
  • Oct 3 - Fired seven innings of three-hit ball to clinch the division title against Los Angeles, 9-4.

(c) Houston Astros
Roy Oswalt - 2004
(20-10, 3.49 ERA, 237 IP, 233 H, 206 K, 62 BB, 2 CG, 2 SO)

Overcoming groin and rib injuries through most of the season, the 26-year-old righthander was a key part of the late-season surge that took the Astros to the playoffs, teaming with Cy Young winner Roger Clemens during a 36-10 stretch in the final seven weeks. He also won Game 5 of the NLDS to win the first postseason series in franchise history.

Record at All-Star Break:8-7
Best Month:August (5-1)
Most Dominant Against:Cincinnati Reds (3-0)
20th Win:With a playoff berth on the line, Oswalt worked seven innings to top Colorado, 9-3, on Oct 2.
Cy Young Award Voting:3rd place (1 of 32 firsts), 19 pts (Roger Clemens won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 16 - Blanked the Brewers on three hits, 2-0, fanning ten.
  • May 25 - Combined with two relievers in 5-0 shutout of the Cubs, allowing three hits in seven innings.
  • Jun 27 - Fired a 1-0 four-hitter over eight innings against Texas.
  • Jul 27 - Drove in a run and tossed seven innings of two-hit ball in a 10-3 drubbing of the Diamondbacks.
  • Aug 6 - Shut out Montreal on a five-hitter, 4-0.
  • Aug 17 - Teamed with two relievers on a five-hit shutout of the Phillies, 5-0.
  • Aug 24 - Picked up a win in relief, 4-2, over Philadelphia, after being ejected two days earlier in a loss to the Cubs.
  • Sep 17 - Outdueled Ben Sheets, edging the Brewers, 2-1.
  • Sep 27 - Hurled seven strong innings and scored a run in a 10-3 triumph against St. Louis.

(c) Houston Astros
Roy Oswalt - 2005
(20-12, 2.94 ERA, 241.2 IP, 243 H, 184 K, 48 BB, 4 CG, 1 SO)

Oswalt became the second Astro to win 20 or more games in back-to-back seasons but he didn't stop there, notching three more victories in the postseason, including the clincher that made Houston the National League champions for the first time. He also was clutch down the stretch in nailing down Houston's second straight Wild Card title.

Record at All-Star Break:12-7
Best Month:June, July, and September (4-1)
Most Dominant Against:Cincinnati Reds (4-0)
20th Win:In the season finale, Oswalt beat the Cubs' Greg Maddox in a 6-4 victory that clinched the Wild Card berth on Oct. 2.
Cy Young Award Voting:4th place, 2 pts. (Chris Carpenter won).

Notable Performances:

  • Apr 15 - Taxes the Reds for nine strikeouts in 11-2 laugher, allowing two runs and five hits.
  • Apr 20 - Stops the Brewers on a four-hit complete game, 6-1.
  • May 17 - Tosses eight innings of shutout ball to blank the Diamondbacks, 3-0.
  • Jun 12 - Shut out Toronto on a two-hit, 3-0, whitewash
  • Jul 4 - Allows five hits in a 4-1, complete game victory against San Diego.
  • Jul 9 - Strikes out seven to drop the Dodgers, 6-1, for his sixth straight victory.
  • Jul 26 - Fans nine Phillies en route to 2-1 complete game win.
  • Sep 1 - Sets big league record with 15-0 career mark versus Reds in 3-1 triumph, striking out eleven.
  • Sep 6 - Goes eight strong in a 2-1 critical win at Philadelphia.
  • Sep 27 - Gets key 3-1 win at St. Louis, an NLCS omen.

20-Win Trivia: