"I think he battled, scrapped and did the best that he could," Philadelphia center fielder Shane Victorino said. "I tip my hat to him, definitely."
When the Phils acquired Oswalt from the Astros on July 29, he was viewed as the addition that would greatly strengthen this club's bid to reach a third consecutive World Series. With Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, Philly had its Big Three and a rotation that rivaled its intimidating lineup.
But as this NLCS unfolded, Oswalt proved that his desire to be a great pitcher wasn't trumped by his desire to be a great teammate. Two days after throwing 111 pitches in a victorious eight-inning Game 2 effort, the veteran right-hander selflessly volunteered to aid a taxed bullpen by pitching the ninth inning of Game 4.
As Phillies utility man Mike Sweeney packed his belongings and faced the reality that he'd just said goodbye to what might have been his best chance to compete in a World Series, he shook Oswalt's hand, embraced him and said, "I'll never forget what you did."
Once the sting wears off, the Phillies won't think about the fact that the Giants tallied a run off Oswalt in the ninth inning of their Game 4 victory. Nor will they think about the fact that he wasn't at his best while allowing two runs (one earned) and nine hits in six innings Saturday night.
They'll instead take pride in the fact that he volunteered to pitch that ninth inning knowing full well that he would need to return three days later to make this Game 6 start.
"I don't look at anything he did tonight with any kind of disappointment," Victorino said. "I'm sure internally for himself, he felt he could have done better. But for me personally, I tip my hat to the guy. Taking the ball on two days to pitch in San [Francisco] and then come back tonight, to me, that says what he's all about."
Oswalt allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in four of the six innings he completed during this decisive affair. The 33-year-old right-hander induced a double-play groundout between a pair of second-inning singles and another after the Giants had put runners at first and second base with just one out in the sixth.
"They were very aggressive with him and they were definitely sitting on fastballs," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "He took us to a real good place in the game. The Giants are better than people think, they're scrappy. ... They played us tough."
Remarkable run for Roy
|R. Oswalt||2004-10||Hou., Phi.||10|
|O. Hershiser||1985-99||L.A., Cle., NYM||10|
|J. Smoltz||1991-2009||Atl., Stl.||9|
|O. Hernandez||1998-2005||NYY, CWS||9|
Oswalt's damage was contained to the third, which began with Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez's bloop single and Andres Torres' 400-foot single. Aubrey Huff delivered a one-out RBI single to center that led to Shane Victorino unleashing a throw to the plate that prevented Torres from also scoring on the play.
Then after inducing what could have been the third out of the inning, Oswalt watched helplessly as Placido Polanco's fielded a Buster Posey grounder and made an errant throw to first that allowed Huff to score.
"I just wasn't very good tonight," said Oswalt, who struggled to command his changeup during this 99-pitch effort that included 71 strikes.
Understandably dealing with a level of fatigue heightened by his attempt to help the Phils win Game 4, Oswalt -- who tied Orel Hershiser's mark of 10 consecutive postseason starts without a loss -- certainly wasn't as good as he was while posting a 1.41 ERA in his final 11 regular-season starts. Nor was he as masterful as he had been while pitching a gem in Game 2 of this NLCS.
But while gutting through six solid innings, Oswalt proved to be the determined competitor that the Phillies will once again pair with Halladay and Hamels next year.
With their Big Three back in place, the Phils will likely once again be among the favorites to reach the World Series. But for now, next year's expectations simply can't heal the pain created by this year's disappointment.
"We had the team to do it," Oswalt said. "We just came up a little short."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.