Roy Oswalt threw approximately 50 pitches in a bullpen session before tonight’s game against the Cubs and told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he’s optimistic his back issue is finally behind him.
“I actually felt great,” Oswalt said. “Probably felt as good as I did in spring training.”
Oswalt hasn’t pitched since leaving a start against the Cardinals on June 23, but his back issue has followed him since his third start of the season. He received a cortisone injection in his back in late-April to little effect, but said today that he is pain-free after he received another injection two days before the All-Star break.
The tentative plan is for Oswalt to throw another bullpen session Friday, which could clear the way for him to make a minor league rehab start next week. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Phillies’ rotation in early August.
Oswalt, 33, is 4-6 with a 3.79 ERA and 42/18 K/BB ratio over 13 starts this season. He has averaged a career-low 5.30 K/9 and 91.2 mph on his fastball, though his back has undoubtedly affected his performance.
World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted an ERA above 2.92. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.
And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.
Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.
Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.