When Roy Oswalt(notes) and the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the Florida Marlins one week ago in what was supposed to be the opener of a three-game series, they never got a chance to bounce back thanks to Hurricane Irene.
They recovered quite nicely once the storm passed.
Coming off a pitching-dominated four-game sweep, the Phillies hope to see that trend continue as they again hand the ball to Oswalt hoping to climb to 42 games above .500 for the first time in franchise history Friday night in South Florida.
Oswalt (6-8, 3.77 ERA) delivered three consecutive quality starts upon returning from the disabled list in early August, but he certainly wasn’t at his best in his final start of the month. The right-hander gave up six runs and a career high-tying 12 hits - including John Buck’s(notes) grand slam - over 5 2-3 innings in last Friday’s 6-5 loss to Florida.
Perhaps most concerning was his decreased velocity. After getting 10 swings and misses on a fastball that averaged 94.1 miles per hour in his previous start, Oswalt couldn’t get anyone to swing and miss on a fastball that sat at 90.8 mph against the Marlins (60-76).
“Yeah, it was a little bit down tonight,” Oswalt told the Phillies’ official website. “But it was just one bad pitch, pretty much. A slider that came back over the plate, it didn’t go down and away like it needed to.”
The other four members of Philadelphia’s rotation didn’t leave many pitches in dangerous spots this week in Cincinnati. The Phillies (87-46) outscored the Reds 21-6 and walked away with a four-game sweep - their first of that length in Cincinnati since 1916 - after winning Thursday’s finale 6-4.
Philadelphia moved 41 games above .500 for the third time in franchise history, but it’s never made it to 42.
“What’s there not to like?” said Ryan Howard(notes), who homered three times in the series - with Thursday’s blast giving him a sixth straight season with 30. “We’ve kind of been operating on all cylinders right now. We just want to continue to maintain that and stay healthy and continue what we’re doing through this month.”
Howard has homered five times this season against the Marlins.
The Phillies would certainly like to see Oswalt get back on track, but last week’s loss to Florida wasn’t an isolated incident. He’s 1-3 with a 7.20 ERA in his seven starts against the Marlins since 2008.
Perhaps he’ll fare better facing a team that knows it’s officially eliminated from contention in the NL East. The Marlins, who went 5-20 to finish August, can no longer catch the Phillies after Thursday’s 7-5 loss to the Mets.
Not that they were holding out hope.
“It was sloppy tonight, no question,” manager Jack McKeon said.
Florida will call up Brad Hand(notes) (1-4, 4.08) to make his first major league start since Aug. 8, when he gave up seven runs over five innings in an 8-5 loss to Atlanta that prompted the club to send him back to Double-A Jacksonville.
The left-hander didn’t have much trouble in the Southern League, going 2-1 with a 1.90 ERA in four starts, but he’s still giving up too many walks. Hand struck out 15 and issued 12 free passes in those outings, a comparable ratio to his 25 walks and 24 strikeouts.
This will be Hand’s first start against the Phillies.
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