In home debut, Oswalt nabs first 'W' for Phils
Right-hander stifles Dodgers for seven shutout innings
PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Oswalt has a little more fire since the Phillies reintroduced him to a pennant race late last month.
The Houston Astros were headed nowhere when they traded him to the Phillies on July 29. Oswalt joked the next night that he jumped 30 games in the standings in 24 hours. (He actually jumped 13 1/2 games, which still isn't too shabby.) He appreciated the opportunity, and Wednesday he had a chance to pitch in a jam-packed ballpark with plenty on the line in a big game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He did not disappoint.
"A lot more adrenaline," Oswalt said after throwing seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park. "When you're pitching in front of 15,000 people and you know you're not doing nothing but trying to get to the end of the year, it's a lot more excitement when you're in a pennant race."
The victory kept the Phillies 2 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and put them in position to move into a three-way tie with the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL Wild Card race, if the Giants lost Wednesday.
Oswalt made it happen.
"Good as advertised," said Ryan Madson, who threw a scoreless eighth inning.
Oswalt allowed just five hits and two walks and struck out five. He got out of a couple jams. The Dodgers had runners on first and second in the second inning but did not score. Dodgers shortstop Jamey Carroll hit a leadoff double in the fifth but did not score.
"In the stretch is when you need to make your best pitches," Oswalt said. "I felt real good with my mechanics tonight, made some good pitches and was able to get out of the jam."
Oswalt improved to 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three starts with the Phillies, which is not bad because he said he has been battling a case of dead arm. Dead arm is something most pitchers experience at some point during the season. It is not an arm injury, just a stretch when the arm doesn't respond like it normally does.
"I felt strong tonight," he said. "I was able to use my lower half most of the night to kind of carry me through."
But there might have been more at play than just Oswalt feeling good out of the stretch and using his lower body.
He also threw a few pretty good changeups.
When Oswalt and the Astros were in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in May, he told former batterymate and Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus about a new changeup grip he picked up in Spring Training.
"He threw more changeups tonight than I saw in eight years of catching him," said Ausmus, who watched from the bench. "He wasn't lying. He told me it was a swing-and-a-miss kind of pitch.
"I don't think it's that rare for a guy who gets older, whether it's velocity or the league adjusting to his stuff, to see the development of a new pitch or style of pitching, to stay and succeed at the level of a Roy Oswalt. You have to make adjustments. He's been around 10 years and the league has seen and adjusted to him and he's adjusting back and it appears successful so far."
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Placido Polanco hit a leadoff single and Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley walked Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth to load the bases with one out. Domonic Brown, who could be in Triple-A Lehigh Valley by the weekend if the Phillies activate Shane Victorino from the 15-day disabled list, hit into a fielder's choice to score Polanco.
The Phillies wasted Wilson Valdez's leadoff triple in the fifth but took a 2-0 lead in the sixth.
The run came at a price.
Ross Gload, who has hit third in three of the previous six games, ripped a double down the right-field line, but strained his right groin running to second base. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said it might not be as bad as it looked. If it is, Gload, who has hit .380 (19-for-50) as a starter, could be the 16th Phillies player on the disabled list this season.
"Anytime we lose a guy who's playing good and hitting the ball good it's a blow," Manuel said. "You've got to keep going. You've got to have people step in and hopefully they can do the job."
Oswalt, Madson and Brad Lidge did the job Wednesday after the Dodgers scored 15 runs against the Phillies on Tuesday.
"After last night we wanted to come out tonight and re-establish what's been happening here," said Lidge, who threw a perfect ninth.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.