Bob Ford: This Roy produces in crucial situation

There is Big Roy and there is Little Roy on the
Phillies’ pitching staff, and they
didn’t switch inseams in the National League Championship Series,
but it was the little guy who picked up the team and put it back on
its feet Sunday night.

Until the seventh inning, it was pretty heavy lifting as Roy
Oswalt was forced to walk a thin edge without much run support from
the Phils. He didn’t replicate Big Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the
division series, but he came pretty close, and pulled the
Phillies back from possible oblivion
following Halladay’s Game 1 loss.

The final score was 6-1 and that sounds like an easy win to tie
the series as it moves to San Francisco for the next three games.
It was anything but, not that Oswalt seemed bothered. He went about
his business coolly as always, working through his assortment of
pitches and always coming back to the fastball that was exploding
on the corners in this game.

He did appear anxious to get an insurance run to work with in
the late innings, though. He picked his way carefully through the
Giants’ batting order holding just a 2-1 lead after the fifth
inning. He allowed a hit here, got another pop-up there and dodged
a bullet as the Amazing Cody Ross Home Run Show stalled on the
warning track in the seventh inning.

Enough was enough, and Oswalt led off the seventh inning with a
sharp single up the middle against tiring San Francisco starter
Jonathan Sanchez. Oswalt borrowed one of Jimmy Rollins’ bats for
the mission, having tossed aside a Chase Utley bat that betrayed
him with a ground-out earlier in the game.

Once on base, it got very interesting for Oswalt, who was
sacrificed to second and then, after an intentional walk to Utley,
took off for home on a Placido Polanco hit to center field.

“I had a good look at it, and as soon as he hit it I knew it was
over the infield, and my first thought was to score,” Oswalt said.
That was not third base coach Sam Perlozzo’s first thought. He saw
Andres Torres field the ball cleanly, not too deep, and his thought
was, “Stop.” Oswalt isn’t fast, but he had momentum and he ran
right through the stop sign. The Giants saw and heard Perlozzo and
cut off the throw, and by the time cutoff man Aubrey Huff turned
and fired to the plate, Oswalt was in there.

“He was out by 10 or 15 feet, but Aubrey thought he was holding
up,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

“I was halfway to home when I saw the stop sign and it was too
late,” Oswalt said.

That was entertaining, and productive for the
Phillies, and it began a four-run
inning highlighted by a slump-breaking double for Rollins –
presumably using his own bat, too.

It was entertaining, but Oswalt’s main contribution to the game
was on the mound, and most of it long before he had that 6-1 lead.
He left the game after eight innings – talking Charlie Manuel into
letting him stay in to finish the eighth – and had allowed just
three hits. He gave up a pair of uneventful singles and allowed the
home run.

That proved to be more than enough for Oswalt, who took the 6-1
lead through the eighth inning and left the game having allowed
just three hits, a pair of singles and the obligatory solo home run
to Ross, who had a total of three home runs in four official NLCS
at-bats after his homer to left in the fifth.

It was a great performance by Oswalt, and it included nine
strikeouts and not a single Giants’ runner reaching scoring
position – aside from Ross during his trot. It wasn’t a surprise,
however. Oswalt has given up more than three earned runs in a start
only once since July 30. He is 8-0 in that stretch over 13 starts,
including Sunday’s win.

The outing also straightened out a little curve in the road that
appeared in the division series against Cincinnati when he allowed
four runs, three earned, in five innings against the Reds and left
the game for a pinch-hitter trailing, 4-0. The
Phillies came back and won that one,
but Roy wasn’t the story. Against the Giants, until Rollins broke,
Oswalt was just about the only story. Unless you count San
Francisco third baseman Mike Fontenot’s strange fielding
habits.

“You’re trying to make momentum come back on your side,” Oswalt
said. “But you can’t get caught up in the moment of trying to get
the momentum back on your side. You have to pitch your game. You
hear a lot of stuff about guys pitching against you, like they’re
better than you, and that’s kind of added fuel to the fire.”

There is a fire there, even if it seems like the smoldering
kind. Like Halladay, Oswalt doesn’t seek out the center spot on the
stage, but the little hill in the middle of the field is where you
usually find it this time of year.

He climbed it successfully again, even if it wasn’t perfect,
even if it wasn’t a no-hitter, even if the other guy is still Big
Roy. Oswalt was big enough, in a game that was bigger than
everyone.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or
bford@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.