The Phillies almost erased the hole Oswalt created thanks to a three-run Ryan Howard bomb, but it wasn't enough. Three late-inning rallies, including a tense ninth inning, were deflated by the Florida bullpen.
And now they rest. Maybe. The Phillies do not know for sure when they will play baseball again. They hope it's Saturday afternoon, but Hurricane Irene could force two consecutive unscheduled days off.
They will weather the storm with a new (old) concern. In the 52/3 innings, Florida battered Oswalt for 12 hits and six runs (five earned). He struck out only two. The crushing blow was a sixth-inning grand slam by catcher John Buck on an 83-m.p.h. Oswalt slider that barely broke across the heart of the plate.
"It was just one bad pitch, pretty much," Oswalt said.
Except that his stuff looked just as it had earlier this season when Oswalt battled through a herniated disk in his back that hindered just about everything. His fastball averaged 90.8 m.p.h. Friday and topped out at 92 m.p.h., according to Pitch F/X data. When he tossed eight shutout innings against Washington last week, his fastball averaged 92 m.p.h. and traveled as fast as 94 m.p.h. Marlins hitters did not swing and miss at one Oswalt fastball. Ten times a Nationals hitter whiffed at an Oswalt fastball.
Oswalt was defensive Friday when asked about his decline in velocity.
"I don't make no big [deal]," he told reporters. "That's you guys. That has nothing to do with me. That's you guys who watch the radar gun. I looked up a couple of innings and saw 91, 92. I don't think 93, 94 is too much of a difference."
This was but one start in an interesting narrative that is Oswalt's season. His first three outings after the miracle epidural injection saved his season displayed the promise of life in his fastball. This version of Oswalt was a smack of reality.
The Phillies, at least, are in the enviable position of holding a large division lead, virtually guaranteed a postseason spot. Oswalt could make as many as six starts in the final 33 games of the season. Those will determine how much confidence the Phillies have in their fourth starter come October.
Without a lively fastball Friday, Oswalt relied heavily on his off-speed pitches. That made guessing for the Marlins hitters quite easy. In the sixth, Oswalt allowed three consecutive singles on off-speed pitches before Buck mashed another over the fence. Oswalt stared longer than usual at the spot where the ball landed. It stung.
His own offense provided few favors. Until the sixth inning, the Phillies swung like a hurricane was approaching. They had but one hit off Clay Hensley, who lugged a 5.47 ERA into Friday's game. That hit was a solo home run by Wilson Valdez, his first since July 1, 2010 - a whopping span of 420 at-bats.
The red flags surrounded Oswalt, and that was the primary concern.
"I'm good," Oswalt said. "I'm good."
That, after an ordinary Friday, remains to be seen.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at email@example.com or @magelb on Twitter.