—Citizens Bank Park
Roy Oswalt. Tommy Hanson. Neither blinked. Both righties battled each other, providing a pitchers duel that leaves you feeling a little giddy in late September. They left it for the bullpens to fend for themselves, and in the end, the Phillies were once again too much for Atlanta in the 1-0 finale win, their 10th straight.
Raul Ibanez gave the Phillies all they needed for a sweep with a double down the left field line that sprayed chalk and scored Jayson Werth. Werth slid through home plate with a pump of his fist as the rally towels waved at full whip.
The gap in the National League East has grown because of performances like that of Oswalt. He went seven innings, tossing 99 pitches, while allowing a lone hit and walk. It was a shutdown game that reeks of playoff baseball. Oswalt is desperate for it, as are many of the men who share red pinstripes.
Although he was left with a no-decision, Oswalt was downright brilliant, as he has been for sometime now. Tonight was Roy Deuce’s ninth scoreless outing of the season, and it came at a time when it was absolutely necessary.
Several players have flourished at the right moment, including one of the more beleaguered Phillies, Brad Lidge. The Phillies closer has converted nine saves in a row – including three straight nights with a save – and has finally found his old self. He said the workload hasn’t been a problem. “I do feel good,” said Lidge. “Basically the first two months of the season I was on the DL, so, to be able to throw a lot these last few months… that’s what’s one of the things that’s helped to get my arm and that command back.”
It wasn’t until the fifth inning the Phillies got any sort of offense perking. Carlos Ruiz’s one out double was the first hit of the evening off of Hanson. Wilson Valdez followed that up with a walk and Roy Oswalt moved them up a base with a well-placed two-strike bunt.
That brought up a scuffling Shane Victorino who promptly struck out looking on a ball right down the chute. It was a night filled with missed opportunities; few opportunities really. Tommy Hanson was the cause of the lacking offense.
Hanson went six strong frames, allowing just two hits while walking three and striking out four. Too many times he fooled Phillies hitters with a nasty slider/curveball combo which is helped by a mid-90’s fastball. Hanson did all he could, however, the Braves continued their slide into the abyss.
And for the Phillies, all that mattered was that Oswalt kept it close enough for the offense to strike. In the end, they did.
So the lead is six games with nine to play. Do the math and the Phils have a magic number of four. They are ever so close to completing a remarkable comeback, but it’s not yet time to sleep. They’ve taken care of business for the last month, what’s a few more days?