Oswalt helps Phillies beat Giants in Game 2 to even series

IF YOU WERE looking for a sense of urgency, a telltale sign that

the

Phillies took their early deficit in

this series to heart, you could not have left Game 2 disappointed.

Break it down any number of ways, from the dominant pitching of Roy

Oswalt to the timely production of Jimmy Rollins to the controlled

aggression of various baserunners, it still comes down to this:

The

Phillies responded. For at least 1

night, they wrested control of this best-of-seven National League

Championship Series back from the grasp of the upstart Giants,

knocking nemesis Jonathan Sanchez out of the game after six-plus

innings and then jumping on the San Francisco bullpen to pull out a

6-1 win.

“You’ve got to do little things to win ballgames,” centerfielder

Shane Victorino said after the

Phillies evened the series at one

game apiece, with the next three games in San Francisco. “That’s

what this time of year is all about.”

The biggest little things were the man at shortstop and the man

on the mound.

Rollins, who entered the night with just one hit in 15 at-bats

this postseason, provided the knock-out blow, hitting a three-run,

seventh-inning double off Santiago Casilla after San Francisco

intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to the struggling

shortstop.

In addition to giving the

Phillies a five-run lead, the hit

gave Rollins four RBI in the game, the other one coming on a

bases-loaded walk in the first inning.

But Rollins was not the biggest star. That designation belonged

to the diminutive starter, who held the Giants to three hits in

eight innings while also making a memorable dash home in the

seventh inning to start a four-run rally.

From the very start, Oswalt looked nothing like the pitcher who

allowed four runs in five innings in Game 2 of the NLDS against the

Reds. Inning after inning, his fastball exploded through the strike

zone, leaving Giants hitters off balance and, occasionally,

flailing.

“I had real good run on the ball tonight,” Oswalt said. “Seemed

like I could throw through the outside part of the plate real well

to lefties and keep it away from them and kind of run it across the

plate.”

The only damage the Giants inflicted came on a solo home run by

Cody Ross, who drilled a 1-0 fastball into the seats in left for

his third home run of the young series.

This time, though, the home team answered back. In the bottom of

the fifth, they manufactured the go-ahead run after a leadoff

double by Victorino. Chase Utley moved the runner to third on a fly

out to rightfield, and Placido Polanco drove him home with a

sacrifice fly to center that gave the

Phillies a 2-1 lead.

“To me, the way we scored that run sucked a little more wind out

of their sails,” Victorino said.

It was the last run that Oswalt would need. After allowing a

single to Freddy Sanchez to put runners on first and second with

two outs in the eighth inning, the veteran righthander convinced

manager Charlie Manuel to leave him in the game. Aubrey Huff ended

up flying out to center, leaving Oswalt with a full eight innings

pitched. His final line: one run, three hits, three walks and nine

strikeouts.

“You hear a lot of stuff about guys that are pitching against

you, like they’re better than you and all that kind of stuff,”

Oswalt said. “And that kind of added fuel to the fire.”

The guy in question was Sanchez, who led the National League in

opposing batting average and in August held the

Phillies to one run on two hits in

eight innings at Citizens Bank Park. The

Phillies didn’t exactly crush the

27-year-old lefty, but they made him throw 35 pitches in the first

inning and eventually knocked him out of the game on a leadoff

single by Oswalt in the seventh.

On the basepaths, they looked more aggressive than in Game 1,

although they also had a lot more opportunities to run. In the

first inning, Utley drew a walk and then stole second on Sanchez’s

first pitch to Placido Polanco. In the seventh, Utley and Polanco

executed a double steal against Giants lefty reliever Jeremy

Affeldt, setting up the intentional walk to Werth and then Rollins’

two-out, three-run double.

But everything paled in comparison to Oswalt’s mad dash from

second to home on Polanco’s one-out single to center earlier in the

seventh. The veteran righthander had led off the frame with a line

single to centerfield, which knocked the tough lefty Sanchez out of

the game after 100 pitches. Victorino then bunted him over to

second, putting him in position to sprint home on Polanco’s one-out

liner to center. As Oswalt approached third, Sam Perlozzo held up

both hands to signal a stop, but Oswalt kept on trucking, nearly

running over Perlozzo with his wide turn around third before

sliding in ahead of the relay.

“It was kind of a game-changer,” Werth said.

And, the

Phillies hope, a

series-changer.

For more

Phillies coverage and opinion, read

David Murphy’s blog, High Cheese, at

http://go.philly.com/highcheese.

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