SAN FRANCISCO As much as the Phillies would have loved to have run their winning streak to 10 games on Sunday, they were able to find solace in defeat because their vaunted pitching rotation might have taken a step toward becoming even stronger.
Roy Oswalt made his first big-league start in six weeks and though he gave up a dozen hits and absorbed a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, he walked away from the start feeling no pain and believing his best is yet to come.
It feels good to be on the field, Oswalt said. It feels good to be well.
The veteran righthander had been on the disabled list since June 23 when the pain in his lower back he began feeling it in April became too much to bear. A series of injections in July calmed down the pain from a bulging disc and allowed Oswalt to get back on the mound Sunday for the stretch drive of the season and possibly the stretch drive of his career.
Oswalt, who waived a no-trade clause to come to the Phillies last summer, turns 34 on Aug. 29. He is undecided if he will continue his career after this season.
The World Series, Oswalt said. Thats what Im playing for. Thats why Im here. I could have stayed in Houston and finished out my career, but I wanted to come here and try to get a ring.
Oswalt pitched six innings, walked two and struck out four. His hits total was high, but several of them soft hits that found holes. He gave up just two extra-base hits.
Overall, Oswalt was pleased with the outing, especially his velocity. His fastball sat around 91 mph and touched 93. His healthy back allowed him to drive through his delivery and finish his pitches better.
Oswalt believes that a revamped exercise program will keep his back strong the rest of the way and he can join rotation-mates Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in a run for a title. We should add Vance Worley to that list. He is 8-1, after all.
I thought Roy threw pretty good, manager Charlie Manuel said. He needed game competition and he got it today so it was good for him.
The Phillies last two losses have both come against the Giants and righthander Tim Lincecum. The two-time Cy Young winner held the Phils to one run over 7 23 innings for his 10th win.
Lincecum walked one and struck out five.
This is a great pitcher great, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in his postgame news conference.
That may have been a subtle reference to Manuels saying Lincecum was good and not great after Linceum beat the Phils 10 days earlier in Philadelphia.
Lincecum was good, Manuel said. He was very tough. He was aggressive with his fastball and hes got a good changeup. He was as good today as he was in Philly. We ran into a good pitcher.
Hes one of the best pitchers in the game for a reason, said Hunter Pence, who went hitless for the first time as a Phillie.
Lincecum survived a bit of a scare when he was struck on the leg by Chase Utleys flying bat in the eighth inning. Lincecum fooled Utley on a changeup and Utley lost the grip on his bat. Utley walked out to the mound to retrieve his bat and told Lincecum, Sorry, man, I didnt mean to do that.
The Phillies are 6-1 with three games remaining on the road trip, which continues Monday night in Los Angeles.
They went 4-3 in the season series against San Francisco, the team that ended their postseason run last year.
Who knows, maybe the two teams will meet again in October.
I wouldnt be surprised if we faced them again, said Giants closer Brian Wilson, the guy with the weird beard. Theyve got their division kind of locked up. In ours, we just need to focus on who were playing tomorrow. And if we get to the playoffs, were a dangerous team. Nobody truly wants to face us.E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org