Aug 232010

Phillies RHP Roy Oswalt

August 23 Philadelphia Daily News

“THE RESULTS never seem to change much this time of year, and yesterday was no exception. As the Phillies sat through a rain delay that clocked in at 1 hour, 44 minutes, they could look around the majors and see all of the pertinent matchups going in favor of the bad guys. The division-leading Braves were pounding the Cubs en route to their ninth victory in 12 games. The Cardinals were putting a recent five-game losing streak further in the rearview mirror with a blowout win over the Giants that pulled them to within 1 1/2 games of the Phillies in the wild-card standings. The Reds were winning. The Padres had won.

It was impossible to predict what all of it would mean come October. But the implications for the here and now were perfectly clear: Any team interested in making the postseason better be prepared to win consistently, and it most certainly better avoid the type of pothole that could have developed at Citizens Bank Park this weekend.

After another fine outing by Roy Oswalt resulted in a 6-0 victory over the Washington Nationals yesterday, the Phils look equipped to handle both challenges.

“I think that’s what we were thinking about when we acquired Roy,” manager Charlie Manuel said after Oswalt pitched seven scoreless innings to help the Phillies (70-53) remain 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the National League East. “That definitely gives us three starting pitchers that we feel like we have a chance to win those games when they pitch.”

Since Aug. 1, the Phillies are 9-3 in games started by their triumvirate of aces: Oswalt and Roy Halladay are both 4-0, while Hamels is 1-3 despite allowing just one run in two of the three losses. Overall, they are 13-5 during that stretch, and 22-7 since July 22.

“I compare it to ’04 and ’05 with Roger and Andy,” said Oswalt, who back then was the young gun in an Astros rotation that featured stars Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. “It seems like it pushes you more when you’ve got guys on the squad that go out there and seem like they throw seven every time out. Kind of an in-house competition against each other to push each other and see how good each other can be.”

A pair of RBI from Placido Polanco – one in the first inning on a sacrifice fly and one in the third on a single – gave Oswalt a slim margin to work with for much of his start. Turned out, it was more than enough. Oswalt allowed a leadoff runner in each of his first four innings, but leaned heavily on a crisp fastball to avoid any serious damage. With a runner on third base in the first inning, he struck out Nationals stars Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman to end the frame. In the third, he struck out Ian Desmond and got Dunn to ground out to strand a runner on second. He ended the fifth with a strikeout of Desmond, then started the sixth by striking out Dunn on a high fastball.

“Most of his strikeouts came because he challenged righthanded hitters and got the ball up and in on them,” Manuel said. “He was beating them.”

Oswalt thinks Citizens Bank Park might have something to do with that. Since joining the Phils, he has said several times that when he stands on the rubber he feels like he is standing on top of the hitter. Yesterday, he added that the stature enables him to get high fastballs past hitters, which he did against Dunn.”

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