It’s been a frustrating season for Phillies’ starter Roy Oswalt. Hailed as the team’s fourth ace, the expectations were for the former Astro to be just as dominating as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. However, things haven’t gone so smoothly for him.
Oswalt was limited by back pain from the start of the season. He tried to fight through the pain, but the injury was clearly taking a toll on his effectiveness. Though he won three of his first five starts, he lasted no longer than six innings, and only threw 90 or more pitches once.
After briefly leaving the team to tend to his family, whose hometown had been damaged by tornados, Oswalt hoped that his brief time away from baseball would help his back settle down. In reality, it only got worse. In his next eight starts, the right-hander went 1-5, and an ERA of 5.81 in June. He still was struggling to go deep into games (pitching more than six innings only twice, and throwing over 100 pitches only once), his velocity was down, and he was struggling with his command. The team decided to shut him down indefinitely, and there was doubt that the veteran would pitch again this season.
Now Oswalt has returned after spending over a month trying to get his back in good condition. He’s made three starts, and he’s looked good in all of them. He’s gone 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA, allowing six runs in 21 innings.
On Saturday night, Oswalt pitched his best game of the season. He tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing eight hits, walking only one batter, and striking out a season-high nine. He also threw a season-high 115 pitches. His velocity and command were both there, and his fastball was as high as 94-mph on Saturday. The veteran hasn’t reported any pain or discomfort from his back, and now appears to be on his way towards returning to form.
When he was acquired from the Astros a year ago, Oswalt went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 12 starts for the Phillies. He has a reputation of pitching his best in August, September, and October.
If Oswalt’s back can hold up and allow him to sustain the level of play he’s shown since his return, it would be a fabulous addition to a team that already looks downright scary on paper. Right now the Phillies have an unbelievable rotation with five pitchers performing at very high levels. With the win last night, the Phillies reduced their magic number to clinch the division to 30. It’s a good time to be a baseball fan in Philadelphia.
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