The series continues at Busch Stadium in St. Louis for the first elimination game. Roy Oswalt looks to close out the series against the much traveled Edwin Jackson.
The longtime Houston Astros ace entered his first full season with the Phillies looking to lock down the back of the rotation as one of the vaunted “Four Aces.” After missing parts of the season due to various injuries and surviving rumors of retirement, Oswalt returned permanently to the rotation on August 7th pitching a 3.59 ERA in his last 11 starts. He’s showing his typical control (2.34 BB/9) and home run aversion (0.65), Oswalt more than filled the role of fourth starter when healthy as evidenced by his 3.44 FIP. Though his strikeouts are down (6.02 K/9), he’s still getting groundballs at a decent rate (45.1%). Though he gets big whiff rates with his curveball, he only threw it 9.7% of the time and for strikes only 54.3% of the time which probably led to his -1.9 wCB for this year. Despite a dimishing fastball, he’s been able to command it throughout his career and even keep its effectiveness in tact, as evidenced by his 12.7 wFB in 2011.
On the other side stands Edwin Jackson. He’s pretty much been the guy that everyone and no one wants, having been a member of 6 MLB teams despite being only 28 years old. Why is that, exactly? Part of it is because of his perceived front end starter value or, maybe, his 6 strikeout, 8 walk, 149 pitch no-hitter. Effectively wild puts it mildly, I’d say. He’s never been much of a strikeout or control guy or groundball guy so it’s hard to peg his allure. I can only imagine it starts with a fastball that sits 94-95. That gets people talking. But reaching true front end starterdom requires command of those pitches and the ability to limit home runs. Now that he’s in his athletic prime, we’re starting to see some of the signs of maturity and sustained success but nothing close to the promise many that they’d see. After his fastball, he features a slider 33% of the time and mixes in, more or less, a show me changeup and curveball.
I think Jackson is going to have a tough time against the lefties in the Phils’ lineup. With their backs against the wall, I could see Tony LaRussa going to the pen early and letting that very good bullpen keep them in the game. But, I also dont’ see Oswalt’s complete dominance of this lineup. It’s too good. At most, I see 6 innings out of him. Due to Jackson’s short leash, I see this being a close game but ultimately, the Phils clinching the series.