Oswalt wins NLCS MVP for his father

Oswalt wins NLCS MVP for his father

ST. LOUIS -- Before the champagne was dry on his short-cropped brown hair, Roy Oswalt sped out of the Astros clubhouse on Wednesday night to pass his newly acquired Most Valuable Player trophy on to his father, Billy.

When the Astros needed the right-hander most in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, he pitched a postseason game for the ages, closing Busch Stadium in the style exhibited by Cardinals hurlers like Bob Gibson, John Tudor and Chris Carpenter.

But with the 5-1 win in the books, the kid from Weir, Miss., had a message to deliver to his dad before he returned to the party.

"The best thing about the whole thing was to give the trophy to my dad after the celebration, just because growing up, he was never late coming home to get me to a ballgame," said Oswalt, who won Games 2 and 6 in the series and finished with a 1.29 ERA. "He got up at 5:30 in the morning and got back home at five in the afternoon to get me to the game by seven. To give it to him, that meant more to me than winning it. He didn't want to take it, but that's the way he is."

Wearing a cap and a light blue collared knit shirt, Billy Oswalt hugged the still damp trophy to his chest.

Billy was never a baseball player, he said.

"And never in my wildest imagination did I expect to see a day like this one," he added. "I can't tell you how proud I am."

But he took the time to help his son turn into a top-notch pitcher that has shown brightly on a staff with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. And after Oswalt pitched seven innings of three-hit ball to stymie the now former defending NL champions, the smile on his dad's face was unbeatable.

"It was more special for me to see his face once I gave the trophy to him," the younger Oswalt said. "Just the way he believed in me. Growing up, people used to come by and ask why he spent so much time with me out in the yard throwing the ball. Hopefully, those guys are watching this on TV today and now they understand."

Considering the events of Monday night in Houston, Oswalt's cool and calm performance was all the more amazing.

The Astros were one strike away from locking up their first NL pennant, and eight pitches later it had all collapsed, Albert Pujols piercing their dreams for but an instant with a dramatic three-run homer that still may be in orbit.

But Oswalt, 83-59 in four regular seasons and now a glitzy 4-0 in the postseason, told the media during Tuesday's off-day that he had no worries.

"He's always the same, even-keeled, straight line all the time," his catcher Brad Ausmus said. "It's the same in Spring Training as it is in the playoffs."

And Wednesday he proved it. His wife, Nicole, who said her nerves were wrecked watching the game, had a dream on Tuesday night that the Astros were going to win and that the victory for her husband was going to be sweet.

"I told Roy about it before breakfast, so it counts," she said. "Of course, I told him it was going to be 1-0 and that he'd hit a home run. So I didn't get the whole thing right."

"I told her I hoped it wouldn't be that close," Oswalt said.

It wasn't, but the winning part was good enough.


NLCS MVPs
Roy Oswalt dominated the Cardinals in the NLCS, winning two games, including the Game 6 clincher in St. Louis.
Year
Player
Team
Position
2005 Roy Oswalt Astros P
2004 Albert Pujols St. Louis 1B
2003 Ivan Rodriguez Florida C
2002 Benito Santiago San Francisco C
2001 Craig Counsell Arizona 2B
2000 Mike Hampton New York P
1999 Eddie Perez Atlanta C
1998 Sterling Hitchcock San Diego P
1997 Livan Hernandez Florida P
1996 Javy Lopez Atlanta C
1995 Mike Devereaux Atlanta OF
1994 Not held -- --
1993 Curt Schilling Philadelphia P
1992 John Smoltz Atlanta P
1991 Steve Avery Atlanta P
1990 Rob Dibble/Randy Myers Cincinnati P
1989 Will Clark San Francisco 1B
1988 Orel Hershiser Los Angeles P
1987 Jeffrey Leonard San Francisco OF
1986 Mike Scott Houston P
1985 Ozzie Smith St. Louis SS
1984 Steve Garvey San Diego 1B
1983 Gary Matthews Philadelphia OF
1982 Darrell Porter St. Louis C
1981 Burt Hooton Los Angeles P
1980 Manny Trillo Philadelphia 2B
1979 Willie Stargell Pittsburgh 1B
1978 Steve Garvey Los Angeles 1B
1977 Dusty Baker Los Angeles OF
Oswalt stifled the Cardinals and took a crowd of 52,438 out of the game on the last evening of the last year of the old yard. Of the 21 outs he recorded, 12 were on the ground, two were infield pops, six were strikeouts and the lone fly ball, coming off the bat of pinch-hitter Johnny Rodriguez in the fifth inning, scored Mark Grudzielanek with the last Cardinals run at Busch II.

"He was dominating," Cards shortstop David Eckstein said. "He dominated us tonight."

The Astros jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second and when Jason Lane homered with one out in the third, one could sense that the three runs were all Oswalt would need.

"Once we got the two-run lead, I knew I could go right at them with the fastball," Oswalt said. "As long as I can keep guys off base with walks, I feel like they are going to have to put three or four hits together to score. It's real hard to do that if you've got command of your fastball moving it in and out."

Oswalt is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball to amass 20 wins in each of the last two seasons. In Game 2, also at Busch, he pitched seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball in Houston's 4-1 victory. The two wins were the Astros' only ones in the seven NLCS games played against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium the last two years.

"Oswalt was the difference in the series, there's no question about it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He got out some pretty good hitters with some incredible consistency."

Prior to Wednesday night, Oswalt's biggest claim to fame was winning a single elimination game against South Korea for the U.S. baseball team that won the gold medal in the 2000 Olympics at Sydney, Australia.

Now, he's also helped clinch a pennant, and the World Series against the White Sox is still to come, beginning Saturday night with Game 1 in Chicago.

"I would classify this as one of the biggest games," Oswalt said. "It ranks right up there with winning the gold medal. That was real special for us, because the U.S. had never won a gold medal in baseball. But this is probably more special because of the history of the team, of not being in the World Series after so many years and getting so close."

Now the Astros are there. And at last glance, that MVP trophy was going back to Mississippi with his dad.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.