Saturday, June 18, 2011
Posted: 12:40 a.m. Updated: 2:21 a.m.
By Jim Salisbury
SEATTLE The visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field was virtually empty when it opened to reporters after Friday nights game.
Roy Oswalt was conspicuously present. Dressed in street clothes and a golf cap after a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Oswalt sat silently and stared contemplatively into his locker for a couple of minutes before turning around to address reporters.
A handful of things went against Oswalt, adding up to his fifth loss in 12 starts. When this one was over, the 33-year-old pitcher appeared tired and frustrated, the complete opposite of how he looked after joining the Phillies for a pennant race last season.
Asked if he was frustrated, the veteran pitcher said, I feel like Im throwing the ball pretty well, not great, but pretty well.
Asked if he was having fun, he issued an emotionless one-word answer: Yeah.
Well take his word for it, even though sometimes it looks as if he isnt, even though sometimes his body language appears as out of gas as his fastball has recently.
Its easy to have fun when your team is winning seven straight games. But the fun can disappear in hurry when that winning streak ends with you on the mound and your team doesnt get a hit until the sixth inning.
The inability to get anything going against Mariners rookie Michael Pineda in the early innings was a big reason the Phillies lost this game. The inability to deliver Pineda a knockout blow in the sixth inning was an even bigger reason.
The Phillies pushed across a run in the sixth, making it a 3-1 game, and loaded the bases with two outs and their best hitter, Placido Polanco, at the plate. Polanco immediately went down in the count on a questionable strike call by home plate umpire Doug Eddings and eventually struck out on a questionable check-swing call. A livid Polanco gave Eddings an earful after the strikeout. The Phillies best chance to put their stamp on this game was gone.
Polanco was not available for comment after the game. Manager Charlie Manuel wasnt thrilled with Eddings work in the at-bat.
The first pitch put him in a hole, Manuel said. We had the bases loaded. It was a big moment in the game.
There were other big moments, such as rightfielder Domonic Brown failing to get to a foul pop up down the rightfield line with a runner on third in the fifth. Second baseman Chase Utley made a running catch but was unable to stop the runner from scoring from third because his momentum was going away from home plate. Brown would have had a much better chance to making a play or even holding the runner if he had been in position to make the catch.
It looked like Utley got there and Brown didnt, Manuel said. If Brown would have gotten there, he would have been in a better position to throw. Utley had to turn around.
Nothing, or no one, hurt the Phillies, and Oswalt, more than Seattle leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki, who had three hits and scored three runs. Brendan Ryan, the Mariners No. 2 hitter, drove Suzuki home twice with a triple and a single against Oswalt.
Youve got to keep Ichiro off base, Manuel said. We werent able to do that. Roy kept us in the game, but he had trouble with Ichiro and Ryan.
Oswalt also gave up a solo homer to Miguel Olivo in the fourth inning. It came on a 2-0 fastball that registered 91 mph on the stadium radar gun.
Though Oswalt seems loath to admit it, his fastball has lacked pop since he returned from the disabled list in mid-May. Hes just not getting his fastball by hitters. Manuel has noticed it.
I think about that sometimes, Manuel said. I think there comes a time when the fastball not all of it is there. But I think hell come out pretty soon and his fastball will be where it was. Its just a matter of time before you see his fastball jump up. Theres nothing wrong with the way hes throwing. I think thats going to come.
Maybe when it does, the smile will return to Oswalts face, and the excitement of playing for a contender will return to his body language.
The Phillies offense produced just six hits Friday night and five of them were singles.
It will get no easier on Saturday night when the Phils face 2010 American League Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSalisburyCSN.
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