September 2 Philadelphia Daily News
“A chunk was missing from the pitching rubber, and the balls he hurled to the plate felt slicker than usual. But when Roy Oswalt walked off the field with one out in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium yesterday afternoon, he did so once again with the Phillies in position to win.
And once again, win the Phillies did, beating the Dodgers, 5-1, for their fifth victory in the last six games, and their sixth straight with their new ace righthander on the mound.
Unlike Oswalt’s first outing of this seven-game road trip, when he was pulled after eight strong innings only to see the Padres tie it in the ninth, he got more than a little help from his friends, as Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino hit home runs and Chase Utley went 3-for-5 with three doubles and two RBI.
Rollins homered on the second pitch he saw from lefty Clayton Kershaw, just his second home run from the right side of the plate this season. Victorino, a fellow switch-hitter whose struggles have been limited to the left side, followed suit in the second inning, leading off with a blast that snapped a 30-game homerless drought. Rollins’ home run was his first off a lefty since he took Pittsburgh’s Justin Thomas deep on July 3. Victorino’s home run was his first of any kind since July 16, when he hit one off Cubs lefty Ted Lilly at Wrigley Field to eclipse his previous career high of 14.
Rollins, who entered the day with six hits in his previous 37 at-bats and a .241 average for the season, attributed some of his struggles to a difficulty in timing the foot tap in his swing.
“Until today, especially righthanded, I haven’t been getting my foot down,” Rollins said. “I can’t explain it. I really can’t. But before the game, [bullpen coach Mick] Billmeyer came up and said, ‘Hey, get your foot down.’ And the first pitch of the game, I just practiced getting my foot down. And the next pitch, if it’s there and my foot’s down, I’m swinging. And it worked.”
The 2-0 lead allowed the Phillies to breathe easier during some uncharacteristic command struggles from their starter. Oswalt allowed six baserunners before giving up his first hit. Five of those baserunners came via walk. A sixth reached on an error on rightfielder Jayson Werth. The hit came with one out in the sixth inning, when Casey Blake laced a single to right. It might have been a blessing in disguise, since Oswalt already had thrown 101 pitches when Blake broke up the no-hitter. Rather than having to decide whether to keep his starter in the game past his breaking point, manager Charlie Manuel was free to remove him with one out in the seventh inning and the top of the Dodgers’ lineup coming up.
Manuel said he’d start seriously considering removing a pitcher with a no-hitter “at 125, 130 pitches.” Oswalt, who threw 115 pitches, seemed to have a similar philosophy.
“I looked up and I knew I didn’t have any hits,” said Oswalt, who has allowed just six runs in 41 2/3 innings over his last six starts, “but I knew I had way too many pitches to get through nine innings.”
Oswalt finished with six walks, tying a career high set April 13, 2007, while with the Astros (coincidentally, in a 9-6 win over the Phillies). Several Phillies players pointed out that the game balls, which are usually rubbed with mud by the home team to improve their grip, felt slick. Kershaw also racked up a high pitch count, walking only two but leaving the game after six innings with 110 pitches. Both teams use the same balls.”
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