Oswalt didn't get the win that would have evened his record at 8-8, but he went seven innings, allowing just four hits and a couple of scratched-out runs. It was a good professional performance, and he stretched out for 116 pitches, continuing to build his arm back to full strength after missing two significant stints with a bad back this season.
"We've got 24 games to go, and the starters are all going to get at least four more starts. Then we'll see where our pitchers are at," manager Charlie Manuel said before the game. "With Roy, we're going to get the strength back in his arm, and when he does, he's going to get his command against good big-league hitters. We'll get a real good read on exactly where he's at."
Manuel didn't add - because he has no intention of doing so - that Oswalt would have to fall off the mound, quite literally, not to be the fourth starter in the postseason behind some combination of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. There is no way to tell how important that fourth spot in the rotation will become in the postseason. At most, that pitcher probably will be out there for just one start in each playoff round. Whether those will be crucial starts, as Game 4 of the 2009 World Series was for Joe Blanton, is for October to decide.
It makes sense that Oswalt, who has 10 career starts and a 5-1 record in the postseason, would be the choice. Worley is 11-1 with a 2.85 ERA. Those are difficult numbers to ignore, but he also hasn't stood where Oswalt has stood. That is the kind of thing that counts with baseball people.
"When you see Roy throwing good, it's hard to overlook him because he has that experience. He has it," Manuel said. "I study guys. I think the nature of who he is, the bigger the moment, the better you'll see him throw. We just need to see his arm get strong and see how far he can go."
Oswalt has taken steps forward and steps back in his recent starts. Wednesday's game against the Braves was only the second time in his last 10 starts he hasn't allowed at least three earned runs. Three starts back, against Florida, he didn't get out of the sixth inning without allowing 12 hits and six runs.
Since then, the results have been getting steadily better, and the start against Atlanta on Wednesday marked the return of the Roy Oswalt who gets ahead in the count and stays there. In the first five innings, when he didn't allow a hit, Oswalt was either 0 and 1 or 1 and 2 on 14 of the 18 batters he faced. Another two swung at the first pitch, which means he was only truly behind in the count to two batters in those five innings.
Pitching with the freedom to let go and challenge the hitters, Oswalt consistently hit 93 m.p.h. with his fastball, and a couple of pitches crested at 94 m.p.h. The difference between having that and - when behind in the count - having to hope 90-m.p.h. pitches get the job done is the difference between good starts and bad starts for Oswalt.
"It has a lot to do with his command," Manuel said. "When he's really going good, he gets that ball in on you and it's tough to hit. He's a real aggressive pitcher, but [those starts] when he's taking his time and his pitch count gets up early, that's command."
Oswalt gave up a run in the sixth on a leadoff double by Michael Bourn and a base hit by Chipper Jones, and the Braves added another in the seventh when Jason Heyward singled and was sacrificed to second and Freddie Freeman hit a 17-hopper that bled through the middle of the infield.
"They hit good pitches. There's only one I'd like to have back - the pitch to Heyward," Oswalt said. "I felt strong. I tried to be aggressive and make 'em get hits."
It is what he does, and you can be sure he will still be the one doing it in the postseason. Part of the reason is because it won't take the young Worley, if used in a relief role, very long to warm up and come into the game.
Oswalt, at 34, needs more deliberate preparation, but the Phillies are also confident he's a better bet to stay in the game longer once he gets there.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at email@example.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/postpatterns