This Oswalt has a familiar look to him
ARLINGTON, Texas — Roy Oswalt may no longer be an ace, but he showed he can still dominate a National League lineup. Making his debut start for the Texas Rangers, Oswalt pounded the strike zone against the Colorado Rockies.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said he expected the 34-year-old Oswalt to “eat innings,” and that’s exactly what he did in a 4-1 win in front of another sellout crowd of 46,964 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. You don’t want to overreact to one start, but the guy who showed up on the mound Friday looked a lot like the Oswalt who pitched brilliantly for the Phillies down the stretch in 2010.
He lost his bid for a shutout when he gave up a double to Marco Scutaro with two outs in the seventh inning. When Washington took the ball from him, Oswalt left the mound to a standing ovation. He later explained that he didn’t tip his cap because he was angry about missing his target on an 0-2 pitch to Scutaro. The pitch was supposed to be inside, but he left it high and outside.
Oswalt threw 110 pitches and a staggering 81 of them were for strikes. He was consistently in 0-2 counts against Rockies hitters, who swung wildly at 67-mph curveballs that dropped out of sight. Oswalt said his curveball was awful two starts ago with Double-A Frisco, but Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux had him change his head position during a subsequent bullpen session. This is why the Rangers refused to rush Oswalt to the rotation. They didn’t want him working out the kinks against major-league hitters.
Oswalt (1-0) gave up one run on nine hits and had six strikeouts with only one walk in 6 2/3 innings. He was irritated at himself for not finishing the seventh inning because he didn’t want to put a strain on the bullpen. But his new manager didn’t have any complaints. In fact, he thought Oswalt’s quick pace on the mound played a big role in the Rangers’ win.
“He deserves a lot of credit for the defense that was played behind him, too, because he kept those guys on their toes by working fast and keeping the ball in the strike zone, making them swing the bat,” said Washington.
Oswalt accidentally showed up in the clubhouse an hour early for a pitchers’ meeting Friday, so he had some time to himself. He admitted to feeling some nerves when he first took the mound, but said they disappeared after his first couple of pitches. Oswalt seemed almost amused that Maddux and Washington checked to see how he was feeling after throwing 95 pitches through six innings. He said he still felt like he could’ve continued even when he reached 110 pitches.
Oswalt threw a lot of four-seam fastballs that topped out at 93 mph. He also mixed in devastating curveballs that he threw at either 67 or 77 mph. Oswalt retired eight consecutive hitters following a two-out single by Wilin Rosario in the second inning. Rosario, the Rockies’ No. 8 hitter, was 3-for-3 off Oswalt.
The good news for the Rangers is that Oswalt sounds like he has a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t understand why he suddenly has so many doubters after suffering through a rough season for the Phillies last season.
“All I heard this past offseason was how bad a year I had,” Oswalt told FoxSportsSouthwest.com. “It’s not like that was normal for me. It almost felt like everyone forgot I could pitch. People were writing me off and I think that’s given me some extra motivation.”
Oswalt said he spoke to his former Astros teammate Andy Pettitte about what to expect after such a long layoff. Pettitte shared with Oswalt some of the things he’d worked on after skipping the 2011 season. And the new Rangers pitcher also said he expected to receive some feedback from another former teammate, Roger Clemens, after Friday’s win.
Oswalt says he feels as good as he did in 2010 from a health standpoint, which could be a scary thing for American League hitters. On Friday, Oswalt led the Rangers to their seventh consecutive win. The Rockies may be an awful team, but it was still impressive to see how Oswalt kept them off-balance.
“Having Roy Oswalt’s a huge shot in the arm for our team,” said Michael Young. “He works extremely fast, keeps the defense involved. Great tempo. We’re excited to have him.”
And nearly 47,000 fans shared the same sentiment.