How can Oswalt top Halladay now?

Top that.

Long before Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in

postseason history, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels talked about

Philadelphia’s three aces always trying to outdo each other.

Halladay set the bar high with a brilliant performance in the

Phillies’ 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NL

division series on Wednesday.

Next up is Oswalt. He starts Game 2 on Friday.

”We’re up 1-0. And, you know, like that’s kind of how I want

Roy Oswalt to feel. I just want him to do the same thing that Roy

Halladay did,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Thursday.

”Just go out there and be comfortable, get a comfortable

atmosphere and pitch to his ability and his knowledge on how to

pitch. Just be himself.”

The only way for Oswalt to top Halladay would be to pitch a

perfect game. Don Larsen has the only one in the postseason,

throwing it for the New York Yankees against Brooklyn in the 1956

World Series.

While Halladay is a leading candidate to win the NL Cy Young

Award and now has a no-hitter to go with his perfect game earlier

this season, Oswalt was Philadelphia’s best pitcher down the

stretch.

Acquired from Houston on July 29, the three-time All-Star went

7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 13 games with the Phillies. Oswalt was 7-0

with a 1.17 ERA in his last 10 starts. Halladay was 8-2 with a 3.10

ERA during that span. Hamels was pretty impressive, too. He was 5-3

with a 2.15 ERA.

”Any time you get involved with a group that you have here, as

far as the atmosphere and the starting staff and the guys on the

team, you come into the clubhouse and you just kind of expect to

win,” Oswalt said. ”You have so much talent one through eight in

the lineup. You have a team that plays with the starting staff, and

you have a real good mix of guys here. We try to pull for each

other and push each other as much as possible.”

Oswalt was part of another rotation that featured three aces

when he pitched in Houston. The Astros had Oswalt, Roger Clemens

and Andy Pettitte from 2004-06. They won the NLCS in ’05 before

getting swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.

”I compare the starting staff a lot to ’05,” Oswalt said.

”I’ve been doing it since I got here. Watching Halladay and Cole,

they remind me a lot of Clemens and Pettitte. They were on top of

their game there then and these guys are here, too. So, it helps

our starting staff out a lot when you start kind of watching each

other pitch and kind of feeding off each other.”

Oswalt has dominated the Reds throughout his career. He won his

first 15 decisions, and is 23-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 34 games against

Cincinnati. But the right-hander hasn’t had much success lately,

going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his only two starts this season.

Overall, Oswalt was 13-13 with a 2.76 ERA this year. He’s never

lost a game at Citizens Bank Park, going 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10

starts. He’s 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in six home starts with the

Phillies.

”I think the bottom line is we’re a different team this year,

and we have an approach that we have figured out that works for us,

and that we’re able to execute,” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said.

”I think numbers have something to do with it, too. He beat us

(23) times. I mean, it was almost, you know, time was on our side,

I think, and the numbers were on our side a little bit. But I think

the biggest thing is the execution factor and the fact that we have

an approach that works and that works consistently. It’s shown all

year that we led the National League in hitting. So I think that

that speaks volumes as well.”

The Reds led the NL in batting average (.278), homers (188) and

runs (790), but they haven’t scored in 30 innings against

Philadelphia. The Phillies won consecutive 1-0 games to complete a

four-game sweep before the All-Star break and Halladay opened the

playoffs with his gem.

”This is a very resilient team,” Reds manager Dusty Baker

said. ”Invariably every time we’ve had a tough go, usually we come

back and win. So once you’ve done it once, you can do it again, and

do it again, and do it again.”

Bronson Arroyo, one of six Reds with previous postseason

experience, will try to send the series back to Cincinnati even at

1. Arroyo is 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA in eight games against

Philadelphia. The right-hander was 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA this

year.

Arroyo played for Boston in 2004 when the Red Sox overcame a 3-0

deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to win the

World Series. He’s pitched in a hostile atmosphere in the

postseason, and won’t let the Philly fans bother him.

”I expect a very Yankee Stadium-esque environment, especially

warming up in the bullpen,” Arroyo said. ”I know these fans here

are serious about the game. They’ve been touted for a long time,

especially in the NFL, as some of the craziest in the game. So you

prepare yourself mentally to deal with all the raw emotion and

excitement that’s going on around. You try to suppress it as much

as possible, not to burn off too much excess energy before you get

out there on the mound and get deep in the game. But I’ve always

enjoyed it. I loved playing in the stadiums when guys are screaming

obscenities about my mother.”