The first two games of this pivotal series with the Atlanta
Braves have gone exactly like Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie
Manuel had hoped.
To try to complete the sweep and essentially end the Braves’ NL
East aspirations, Manuel now turns to his third ace.
Roy Oswalt looks to win his fifth consecutive start and help the
surging Phillies trim their magic number to four in Wednesday
night’s series finale.
Entering this series with a three-game lead over Atlanta
(86-66), Manuel set his starting rotation so his top three pitchers
would face the Braves. Cole Hamels set the tone, limiting Atlanta
to one run in eight innings in a series-opening 3-1 victory on
Monday, and Roy Halladay became the NL’s first 20-game winner the
“It’s definitely special but the best part about it is it’s been
secondary for me,” Halladay said. “Being able to get to the
playoffs is the priority.”
With Tuesday’s 5-3 victory, the club’s season-best ninth in a
row, Philadelphia (91-61) increased its lead in the East to five
games and reduced its number to clinch a fourth straight division
title to six.
Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer Tuesday, and has been leading
the offense over the last week, batting .375 with five home runs
and 13 RBIs in the last eight games.
“The past two games were a total team effort on both sides of
the ball in clutch situations,” Werth said. “It’s the kind of ball
we’re accustomed to.”
While Halladay will receive strong consideration for the NL Cy
Young Award, Oswalt (13-13, 2.90 ERA) has been the league’s top
pitcher over the past six weeks.
After allowing five runs to Washington in losing his
Philadelphia debut July 30, Oswalt is 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his
last nine starts with the Phillies winning each time. The
right-hander’s ERA since the start of August leads the NL and his
.187 opponents’ batting average ranks third-best in the majors.
“(Oswalt’s) been everything I expected him to be,” Manuel told
the Phillies’ official website after the three-time All-Star
allowed one run and six hits in six innings in Friday’s 9-1 win
over the Nationals.
Oswalt will try to win five straight starts for the first time
since July 20-Aug. 13, 2007, against the only NL team he hasn’t
defeated – other than Houston.
The 10-year veteran is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA in seven career
starts against the Braves. He hasn’t faced them since yielding six
runs in two innings in a 9-7 loss for the Astros last
Although Atlanta has dropped 13 games in the East standings
since July 21, it can take solace in the fact that it’s still atop
the wild-card standings.
“Our focus is on winning (Wednesday) night,” said manager Bobby
Cox, who will give the ball to Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.62).
Hanson gave up four runs and five hits in six innings in
Friday’s 6-4 victory over the Mets, earning just his second win in
14 starts. The right-hander did a good job of settling down after
yielding three runs in the second, retiring 13 of the final 14
batters he faced.
Hanson, who hasn’t won back-to-back starts since winning three
in a row May 26-June 5, has been sharp in two starts against the
Phillies this season, going 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA, but hasn’t faced
them since the end of May.