Oswalt went the distance over the weekend to get the red-hot Phillies started on their current four-game winning streak, which he’ll look to extend in Friday night’s series opener against the visiting Washington Nationals.
Oswalt (12-13, 2.94 ERA) gave up five runs over six innings in a loss to the Nationals on July 30, just hours after Philadelphia (86-61) acquired the three-time All-Star from Houston.
Since his subpar debut, Oswalt has been the NL’s best pitcher. He’s 6-0 with a league-best 1.56 ERA since the beginning of August, holding opponents to a .177 average - the lowest in baseball.
Oswalt limited the Mets to four singles and a walk en route to his first complete game in a Phillies uniform Sunday in a 3-0 road win, which combined with Atlanta’s loss gave Philadelphia a one-game lead in the NL East.
“I feel like I got a new life coming over here,” Oswalt said. “I’ve been out of playoff contention for about five years. Coming here, these guys have been there twice. They’ve got a ring and I don’t.”
It’s looking more and more like Philadelphia will get a shot at another one. The Phillies stretched their winning streak to four with a 10-5 victory in Florida on Wednesday, building a three-game lead on the Braves.
Manager Charlie Manuel, however, refuses to get comfortable.
“We’re not in control of it right now,” Manuel said. “We’ve got a lead. We can definitely control what we’re going to do by winning. Each day we come to the yard, if we come to win, then we control every damn thing about it.”
A three-game set with Atlanta begins Monday - one of Philadelphia’s two remaining series with the Braves - but first up is three with the last-place Nationals (62-84).
The Phillies are just 7-5 against Washington but had no trouble winning the most recent matchup. Oswalt bounced back from his shaky Philadelphia debut by pitching seven outstanding innings in a 6-0 home win Aug. 22, a performance that confounded Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn(notes).
“He was throwing his slider more than I ever remember,” Dunn told the Nationals’ official website. “He was throwing changeups. I don’t ever remember him throwing that stuff.”
Dunn should know. He’s stepped into the batter’s box against Oswalt more than any other hitter, batting .263 (20 for 76) with four homers, 13 walks and 25 strikeouts.
The Phillies have won eight of 10, but they have Washington to thank for their lead increasing from one to three games. The Nationals won Tuesday and Wednesday in Atlanta, with light-hitting Justin Maxwell’s(notes) second-inning grand slam providing the difference in a 4-2 win in the finale.
He’s just 2-3 in that stretch, mainly because the Nationals have totaled one run in the three defeats. The right-hander gave up two runs over six innings - striking out a season-high eight - in a 4-1 loss to Florida on Saturday.
“It’s exciting to get a chance to knock someone off when you’re not in the race yourself,” Marquis said.