When Roy Oswalt and the Astros were in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in May, he told former batterymate and Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus about a new changeup grip he picked up in Spring Training.
On Wednesday night, utilizing the pitch for the team that acquired him against the team that couldn't, Oswalt outdueled Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers went from a season-high 15 runs one night to their 13th shutout the next and a 2-0 loss.
"He threw more changeups tonight than I saw in eight years of catching him," Ausmus said after watching from the bench. "He wasn't lying. He told me it was a swing-and-a-miss kind of pitch."
Ausmus said the Oswalt changeup, literally and figuratively, illustrates why the pitcher is a true ace.
"I don't think it's that rare for a guy who gets older, whether it's velocity or the league adjusting to his stuff, to see the development of a new pitch or style of pitching, to stay and succeed at the level of a Roy Oswalt," Ausmus said. "You have to make adjustments. He's been around 10 years and the league has seen and adjusted to him and he's adjusting back and it appears successful so far."
Oswalt (7-13) pitched seven innings for his first victory for the Phillies and first in more than a month. Billingsley (9-7) went six innings, charged with both runs in another tough-luck loss. The Dodgers have scored only five runs -- and Billingsley has allowed only five runs -- in his last five starts.
"He pitched well enough to win," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
The bullpen did its part to keep it close, rookie Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo pitching a scoreless inning each. Jansen hasn't allowed a run yet in seven Major League appearances. Kuo's scoreless-innings streak reached 19 1/3 and his 0.91 ERA is lowest in the Major Leagues.
But the Dodgers didn't hit well enough to win. After going 9-for-17 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night, they put runners in scoring position in four innings without scoring.
"We had three opportunities with a runner on second and nobody out and couldn't move them," said Torre. "Yeah, you have to give [Oswalt] credit. He had really good control of the situation and good command. After the second inning he got his breaking ball down and had all his stuff working. And he threw an awful lot of changeups. Throw 94 [mph], 95 and that change is enormously important."
Of the five hits Oswalt allowed, two of them were infield singles by Scott Podsednik, who later added a double.
"He was sharp, working both sides of the plate and throwing that off-speed pitch for strikes," said Podsednik. "He kept us off-balance all night and we couldn't get anything going."
In the second inning, James Loney doubled and Casey Blake walked, but Jay Gibbons bounced into a double play and Jamey Carroll grounded out. With two outs in the third, Podsednik and Ryan Theriot singled, but Andre Ethier flied out. Carroll led off the fifth with a double, but A.J. Ellis flied out, Billingsley struck out, Podsednik legged out his second infield hit, but Theriot grounded into a forceout. Podsednik led off the eighth inning with a double but was stranded at second.
"In the stretch is when you need to make your best pitches," Oswalt said. "I felt real good with my mechanics tonight, made some good pitches and was able to get out of the jam."
Meanwhile, the Phillies capitalized on a pair of walks by Billingsley in the fourth inning to manufacture one run and a pair of doubles by Ross Gload and Raul Ibanez for their other run in the sixth.
Billingsley shrugged off the lack of run support.
"Roy pitched a good game," he said. "The guys played great behind me. [Gibbons] made some great plays. It was tough to push across some runs. Roy, you could tell from the beginning and as the game went on that he was throwing a good game. You just can't make too many mistakes in these games. I was able to work out of a couple jams, limited the damage. We had opportunities, couldn't get the big hit, nothing you can do about it."
Gload, who homered twice Tuesday night in place of the injured Ryan Howard, pulled up lame with a right groin strain going into second base.
Both teams were already banged up. The Phillies are without Howard, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino. Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin are on the disabled list for the Dodgers, and their lineup was again missing Matt Kemp, benched for a second game in favor of Gibbons. Torre wouldn't say if Kemp would return Thursday night.
"I'm just going to sleep on it," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less