Roy Oswalt buried Juan Uribe in an 0-2 hole and threw a change-up when searching for a strikeout to begin the sixth inning Tuesday. Uribe had fanned in 25 percent of his 145 at-bats and Oswalt had recorded 7.4 strikeouts for every nine innings pitched in his 11 seasons.
But Oswalt's pitches have not eluded as many bats as usual in the six starts since his return from the disabled list. Uribe swung at the change-up, left in the zone, and laced a double to the leftfield corner. Oswalt drifted off the mound and in one violent motion, snapped his head and body 180 degrees in anger. A simple curse word or scream was not enough to internalize this failure.
Oswalt's inability to miss bats caught up to him. No, he was not the primary reason why the Phillies lost, 6-2, Tuesday night. But his performance merits a closer look.
In six innings, he allowed eight hits and four runs. He struck out one and Dodgers swung and missed at four of his 94 pitches. He has struck out three or fewer batters in sixth straight starts, the longest such streak of his career.
On this night, of course, Oswalt was hardly the problem. He was not brilliant -- the errant pickoff throw was possibly the biggest play of the game. But context is always important, and the game logs tell us this was only the second time all year Oswalt allowed more than two runs in a start.
Aside from the third inning, he was fine. After the throwing error, he allowed two run-scoring singles.
"If they don't score, you're in pretty good shape," Oswalt said.
This is true, and effectively the way Oswalt has lived for the past few starts. He had a 1.96 ERA despite allowing 30 hits in 23 innings and a .316 opponents' batting average. But Oswalt was able to avoid innings like the third Tuesday night.
More strikeouts could help, but Oswalt is not thinking that way.
"If I can throw, six, seven or eight innings and only strike out one or two and we win, that's all I'm looking for," Oswalt said. "I ain't looking to pad my numbers."
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