Roy Oswalt looked like a man on a mission last night. He looked like a man who had something to prove. Not to the fans or his teammates or his manager. But mostly to himself.
After all, this season hasn’t gone as planned for the veteran right-hander. He has been plagued by back pain for much of the year and has spent a lot of time on the disabled list. In addition to his on-the-field problems he had to return to his hometown of Mississippi earlier in the season to help his family when their home was badly damaged by tornadoes. In fact, for Oswalt, you might say that this entire season he has been ‘in the eye of the storm.’
That is until the clouds finally cleared last night.
Oswalt pitched his best game of the season beating the Washington Nationals 5-0 going eight strong innings. He had a season-high nine strike-outs. In fact, that is the most strike-outs he has had as a Phillie. But the best sign of all came in the bottom of the first inning when Oswalt‘s fastball was clocked at 94 mph. He has not had that kind of velocity on his fastball since he aggravated his back in April.
And his teammates were delighted to have their old friend back on the mound.
“He’s back,” said fellow pitcher Cole Hamels watching from the dugout. “When he has the velocity, you know it’s game time.”
And the view from on-the-field was pretty nice, too.
“The way he threw the ball,” said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, “vintage Roy. I was excited, man. His velocity was super…I was like ‘Wow.’ And he was letting it go. You could tell he was confident in his back and in his arm.”
A far cry from the man who just several months ago was facing the possibility that his career might be over.
“I’ve had a pretty good one (career),” Oswalt said after leaving his June 24th outing after only the second inning. “You throw as long as you can throw, and when you can’t throw no more, you can’t throw no more. I’m going to keep throwing as long as I can, and hopefully it’s not gotten to that point where I can’t throw no more. But if it’s gotten to that point, you just have to accept it.”
Not so fast, Roy. If last night was any indication, Oswalt won’t be hanging up his spikes any time soon. He threw a season-high 115 pitches and looked like he was having fun doing it. And the fans were having fun watching. The Washington Nationals had the largest crowd in their ballpark’s history, 44,685. But according to Cole Hamels‘ estimate, 44,000 of them were Phillies fans.
It sure seemed that way as they gave Oswalt a loud standing ovation as he left the field after retiring the Nationals in the eighth.
So the Phillies came back with a win after a tough loss Friday night. They improved their record to 81-43 and maintained their 7.5 game lead over the Braves.
But the big story last night was the man on the mound, the man on a mission. Well, Roy, I have only two words left for you: