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Roy Oswalt gets injured, “Evil” Danys Baez returns, and the Phillies lose. Yep, this was NOT a good night for the Fightins.

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Despite the Phillies’ rash of injuries that have plagued the team since the start of Spring Training,The Phillies can ill afford to lose Roy Oswalt for an extended perios of time. Photo: www.upi.com the starting rotation had remained virtually unscathed.
 
Until Friday night.
 
Roy Oswalt, arguably the second best pitcher on the Phillies’ staff in the early part of this season, left the game in the top of the seventh inning after throwing a few warm up pitches.

When assistant trainer Mark Anderson came out of the dugout with Charlie Manuel, I got the feeling they weren’t going out to left field to check on Raul Ibanez.

Oswalt has a lower back strain. Although quite durable throughout his career, the right-hander has battled back problems in the past. Oswalt first experienced these current symptoms in the top of the fifth inning. Although they didn’t get any worse, they didn’t get any better.

To top matters, the Danys Baez we all know and dread came in and opened the floodgates. The killer being a two-run single to former Phil Greg Dobbs. Going into the game, Dobbs was hitting .412.  If you literally add his two batting averages together from 2009 and 2010,  Dobbs hit .443.  Sad.  Personally, I wondered why Manuel kept Baez in to face Dobbs instead of going to Antonio Bastardo, but what do I know?

Lets go to bottom of the ninth inning. Pete Orr swings at the first pitch and flies out. Way to take a pitch to try and get on base, Pete. That’s the reason why you’re a journeyman infielder. John Mayberry works a four pitch walk in a very smart at-bat. Then Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco proceed to quickly fly out to end the game. Just like that. If you were timing yours truly vs. Victorino and Polanco in a contest to see what finished quicker (this little paragraph or those at-bats) they would have won hands down.

There are losses where you get pounded 10-3 when your team just doesn’t have it. They happen every now and then.  Then there are losses where you lose your number three starter, your bullpen gets exposed, and the best at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning comes from John Mayberry Jr. There was absolutely nothing good that came out of this loss, and the few weaknesses this Phillies team has were brought to light.

If the team’s starters don’t go deep, you’re entrusting a lead to pitchers like Baez if it’s not in the eighth inning. Moreover, the Phillies’ offense seems to be getting back into that all familiar rut during the last week, so these games could be a lot closer than one would like.

The loss of Oswalt for any period of time is huge. Don’t even kid yourself by thinking otherwise.  With Oswalt out, you basically have the same rotation (maybe a little better) as last year. I’m no major league pitcher, but I could almost write a medical book on my back issues the last year. When you have a back problem, you have an “everything” problem. If Oswalt makes his next start, he’s really sucking it up. That is a tough injury. Even if he’s “ok,” it’s early enough in the year to rest him for a little. Kyle Kendrick has pitched well enough out of the pen to get a spot start (or even temporarily take over the fifth spot in the rotation). If Oswalt is out for an extended period of time, the NL East is suddenly a little more open. No questions asked.

As far as the bullpen goes, it’s obvious that Ruben Amaro will need to dig deep on July 31st for depth. Although the Phils' pen has been ranked as one of the game's best in the early going, these numbers can be deceiving, as Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee both showed Wednesday and Thursday night  by giving the pen two days off. Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras have been rock solid. The bullpen will blow some games. That’s understandable.

However, do YOU want to make a possible playoff run relying on a banged up Brad Lidge, Baez, and an inconsistent J.C. Romero and David Herndon? Bastardo strikes out six straight Braves, then he can’t find the plate in his next outing. A championship caliber team like the Phils need more certainty on this end at some point. Chad Durbin, we miss you (although I hear he is having a rough go right now in Cleveland).

The Phils will need another strong effort from Cole Hamels and an inconsistent Joe Blanton  this weekend to avoid losing their first series of the year to the Marlins.

But more importantly, they can’t lose Roy Oswalt.

 

Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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