Oswalt's contributions don't stop at just pitching
Oswalt's contributions don't stop at just pitching
By Adam McCalvy
PHILADELPHIA -- What was going through Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's mind as he saw his pitcher, the not-so-fleet-footed Roy Oswalt, blow through a stop sign at third base in a tight Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday?
"I thought, 'Go for it,'" Manuel said with a shrug.
That was sort of surprising, considering Oswalt represented an insurance run so important that the Phillies bunted him to second base after his single leading off the seventh inning. The Phillies were already down a game in this best-of-seven series, with a trip to the World Series on the line, and Manuel & Co. were clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time.
Once Oswalt made the turn at third base, the manager figured he might as well root for his pitcher to make it.
"What the [heck] are we going to do, rope him? I ain't that good," Manuel cracked. "I'm not a cowboy. I might look like one, talk like one, but I'm not one."
Oswalt's mad dash home was part of an outstanding night for the Phillies' major midseason acquisition. His run in the bottom of the seventh inning sparked a four-run scoring outburst that gave Philadelphia a 6-1 win and tied the series at a game apiece before heading west to San Francisco for Game 3 on Tuesday.
Most of the credit for that went to Oswalt's work on the mound. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and gave up one run on only three hits in eight strong innings to erase the memory of a sub-par outing in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Reds last week. In that game, Oswalt surrendered four runs, three earned, on five hits in five innings, though the Phillies scored a 7-4 win.
With Sunday's win, Oswalt improved to 5-0 in nine postseason starts, one shy of Orel Hershiser's record of most playoff starts without a loss. He's won three consecutive decisions in NLCS games, all three following his team's loss in the previous game. Before Sunday, the most recent such outing came in Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS against the Cardinals, two days after Albert Pujols obliterated a Brad Lidge slider for a memorable home run at Minute Maid Park to temporarily delay Houston's trip to the World Series.
Roy Oswalt's nine strikeouts were the most in his career in a
* -- only playoff relief appearance
"I think the biggest thing is it's momentum," Oswalt said. "You're trying to make momentum come back on your side. In '05, Pujols hit a home run in Game 5 at our place, and right then I went straight to the clubhouse after he swung the bat and knew I needed to set a tone early in the game, and I was able to do it."
He did it again on Sunday, when Oswalt faced one Giants batter more than the minimum into the fifth inning, when red-hot right fielder Cody Ross connected for a solo home run. It marked the third straight postseason game in which Ross spoiled a no-hit bid with a home run. Oswalt shrugged it off as a bad pitch.
Perhaps it helped that he made up for it with his adventure on the basepaths. Oswalt singled leading off the bottom of the seventh inning to knock Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez from the game, then advanced to second base on a bunt.
The Giants intentionally walked Chase Utley to face Placido Polanco, who delivered a single to straightaway center field. Giants outfielder Andres Torres fielded the hit cleanly and threw home. Phillies third-base coach Sam Perlozzo threw up the stop sign.
And Oswalt ignored it.
"The first thing that went through my mind was 'score,'" Oswalt said. "I read it pretty well coming off the bat. I didn't look at the center fielder and see how close he was. But as soon as he hit it, I knew it was over the infield. First thing in my mind was 'score.' When I got halfway, I saw the stop sign. I said, 'It's too late now. No turning back.'"
"I had my hands over my eyes," he said.
Luckily for Oswalt, Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff heeded Perlozzo's stop sign, and he cut off Torres' throw home. By the time Huff relayed to the catcher, it was too late, and Oswalt scored with a slick little slide.
"I made a bad decision there on the cutoff," Huff said. "As I'm getting by the mound, I glanced at the third-base coach and he had his hands up. So I cut it off. The throw was on the money -- it nails him. I have to let it go."
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: "No question we had [Oswalt] dead. He was out by 10, 15 feet. But Aubrey thought he was holding up. That's why he cut the ball off."
That was fortuitous for the Phillies, because the next batter, Ryan Howard, struck out. Oswalt might have been stranded at third base and the Phillies would've been left clinging to their one-run margin.
Still, Oswalt might be wise to heed the stop sign next time.
"You get lucky sometimes," Perlozzo said, "and he got lucky."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.