Paul Hagen: This time Phillies will let Oswalt’s decision slide

GIANTS MANAGER Bruce Bochy didn’t think there was a chance that
Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt was
going to be able to score from second. Then again, he didn’t think
Oswalt was even going to try after Placido Polanco singled to
center in the bottom of the seventh.

With just one out and a potential to have runners on first and
third, leading by a single run, third-base coach Sam Perlozzo put
up the stop sign.

Except that Oswalt ran through it. And Giants first baseman
Aubrey Huff, who had seen Perlozzo throw his hands up, cut off the
throw from center.

“No question we had him dead. He was out by 10, 15 feet,” Bochy
observed.

Instead Oswalt scored easily, triggering what turned into a
four-run outburst as the
Phillies evened their best-of-seven
NLCS against San Francisco at a game apiece with a 6-1 win last
night at The Bank.

“I probably can’t say exactly what the [dugout] reaction was,”
said rightfielder Jayson Werth with a grin. “Something like, ‘Oh,
no. Oh, yes,’ with some other adjectives and verbs thrown in
there.”

Oswalt said he was thinking about coming home immediately.

“I read it pretty well coming off the bat,” he said. “I didn’t
look at the centerfielder to see how close he was. But as soon as
[Polanco] hit it, I knew it was over the infield. When I got
halfway, I saw the stop sign. I said, ‘It’s too late now, no
turning back.’ “

Perlozzo spoke in measured tones about the play. “I was really
happy he was safe,” he said. “It was a situation where, if he had
been out, that could have been it [for the inning]. I certainly
thought the ball was going through.”

Manager Charlie Manuel could only laugh. “What the hell are we
going to do, rope him?” he joked. “I ain’t that good. I’m not a
cowboy. I might look like one, talk like one, but I’m not one.”

Said Werth: “That was a game-changer, it really was. It was
probably the defining point of the game.”

Oswalt, using a bat he borrowed from Jimmy Rollins, had singled
to lead off the inning. The
Phillies had the third fewest
sacrifice bunts (44) in the National League this season. But Manuel
had Shane Victorino bunt him over. Chase Utley was walked
intentionally, setting the stage for the turning point.

E-A-G-L-E-SSome
Phillies fans probably weren’t too
happy to see Ryan Howard on the sideline of the Eagles’ win over
the Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field yesterday afternoon,
especially after he struck out three times in the NLCS Game 1 loss
to San Francisco on Saturday night.

Seriously, though, staring at video of Giants’ Game 2 starter
Jonathan Sanchez all afternoon probably would have done more harm
than good. Baseball is a game of relaxation and reaction.

At the same time, he put himself out there. Silly as it might
have been, if he had had a bad game, that decision surely could
have become a flashpoint for an artificial controversy.

Instead, he worked a crucial walk off Sanchez in the first
inning last night, helping to lead to an unearned run. Then he
doubled his next time up. Then he singled in the fifth.

And the
Phillies won, 6-1, so the whole
thing became a non-issue.

The quoteJayson Werth on tying the NLCS at a game apiece going
into Game 3 at San Francisco tomorrow: “Whatever it takes. We want
to get it done. This is definitely a war and we’re in it to win
it.”

What goes aroundBaseball is a small world. Well-intentioned
advice can echo in unexpected ways. Just ask Charlie Manuel and Roy
Oswalt.

When the Giants visited Citizens Bank Park in August, he was
asked by the
San Francisco Chronicle about Cy Young Award
winner Tim Lincecum’s disappointing season. After all, both are
smallish righthanders.

Oswalt said conditioning was the key. “If you’re not in the top
shape you can be, your body’s going to break down, especially if
you’re smaller in size,” he noted. “You have to do twice the work a
bigger guy’s going to do.”

To be fair, Lincecum had been getting the same advice from a
variety of sources, including his father and Giants manager Bruce
Bochy. But it was also right about then that he turned his season
around. If he hadn’t, it’s doubtful San Francisco would have even
made the postseason. And The Freak wouldn’t have had the chance to
outduel Roy Halladay in Game 1 on Saturday.

Manuel, meanwhile, worked tirelessly with Pat Burrell before the
leftfielder left as a free agent. So the
Phillies manager had to have mixed
emotions at best about watching him get a single, a double and an
RBI in the Giants’ 4-3 win in the opener.

Age-old questionThere has been quite a bit of discussion
recently about how long the
Phillies’ window of opportunity
will remain open. For what it’s worth, according to
baseball-reference.com, the average age of
Phillies hitters is 31.8 years, the
average for the pitchers 31.1. Both figures are the oldest in the
league.

Et ceteraThe
Phillies have lost the first game
of a postseason series six times before this NLCS (1950 World
Series, 1976 NLCS, 1978 NLCS, 1981 NLDS, 1993 World Series, 2007
NLDS) and have never come back to win that series. In fact, before
last night’s win, they have come back to win Game 2 and tie the
series just once, against Toronto in 1993 . . . Game 3 at AT&T
Park tomorrow is an afternoon game. Cole Hamels had a 3.34 ERA in
the daytime this season (2.97 at night) and 4.27 career (3.20 under
the lights).

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com