Oswalt helps Phillies beat Giants in Game 2 to even series
IF YOU WERE looking for a sense of urgency, a telltale sign that the Phillies took their early deficit in this series to heart, you could not have left Game 2 disappointed. Break it down any number of ways, from the dominant pitching of Roy Oswalt to the timely production of Jimmy Rollins to the controlled aggression of various baserunners, it still comes down to this:
The Phillies responded. For at least 1 night, they wrested control of this best-of-seven National League Championship Series back from the grasp of the upstart Giants, knocking nemesis Jonathan Sanchez out of the game after six-plus innings and then jumping on the San Francisco bullpen to pull out a 6-1 win.
"You've got to do little things to win ballgames," centerfielder Shane Victorino said after the Phillies evened the series at one game apiece, with the next three games in San Francisco. "That's what this time of year is all about.''
The biggest little things were the man at shortstop and the man on the mound.
Rollins, who entered the night with just one hit in 15 at-bats this postseason, provided the knock-out blow, hitting a three-run, seventh-inning double off Santiago Casilla after San Francisco intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to the struggling shortstop.
In addition to giving the Phillies a five-run lead, the hit gave Rollins four RBI in the game, the other one coming on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning.
But Rollins was not the biggest star. That designation belonged to the diminutive starter, who held the Giants to three hits in eight innings while also making a memorable dash home in the seventh inning to start a four-run rally.
From the very start, Oswalt looked nothing like the pitcher who allowed four runs in five innings in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Reds. Inning after inning, his fastball exploded through the strike zone, leaving Giants hitters off balance and, occasionally, flailing.
"I had real good run on the ball tonight," Oswalt said. "Seemed like I could throw through the outside part of the plate real well to lefties and keep it away from them and kind of run it across the plate."
The only damage the Giants inflicted came on a solo home run by Cody Ross, who drilled a 1-0 fastball into the seats in left for his third home run of the young series.
This time, though, the home team answered back. In the bottom of the fifth, they manufactured the go-ahead run after a leadoff double by Victorino. Chase Utley moved the runner to third on a fly out to rightfield, and Placido Polanco drove him home with a sacrifice fly to center that gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
"To me, the way we scored that run sucked a little more wind out of their sails," Victorino said.
It was the last run that Oswalt would need. After allowing a single to Freddy Sanchez to put runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth inning, the veteran righthander convinced manager Charlie Manuel to leave him in the game. Aubrey Huff ended up flying out to center, leaving Oswalt with a full eight innings pitched. His final line: one run, three hits, three walks and nine strikeouts.
"You hear a lot of stuff about guys that are pitching against you, like they're better than you and all that kind of stuff," Oswalt said. "And that kind of added fuel to the fire."
The guy in question was Sanchez, who led the National League in opposing batting average and in August held the Phillies to one run on two hits in eight innings at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies didn't exactly crush the 27-year-old lefty, but they made him throw 35 pitches in the first inning and eventually knocked him out of the game on a leadoff single by Oswalt in the seventh.
On the basepaths, they looked more aggressive than in Game 1, although they also had a lot more opportunities to run. In the first inning, Utley drew a walk and then stole second on Sanchez's first pitch to Placido Polanco. In the seventh, Utley and Polanco executed a double steal against Giants lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt, setting up the intentional walk to Werth and then Rollins' two-out, three-run double.
But everything paled in comparison to Oswalt's mad dash from second to home on Polanco's one-out single to center earlier in the seventh. The veteran righthander had led off the frame with a line single to centerfield, which knocked the tough lefty Sanchez out of the game after 100 pitches. Victorino then bunted him over to second, putting him in position to sprint home on Polanco's one-out liner to center. As Oswalt approached third, Sam Perlozzo held up both hands to signal a stop, but Oswalt kept on trucking, nearly running over Perlozzo with his wide turn around third before sliding in ahead of the relay.
"It was kind of a game-changer,'' Werth said.
And, the Phillies hope, a series-changer.
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.
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