Mickey Callaway figured Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola would have the green light to swing. Corey Oswalt should have anticipated the same.
Oswalt’s first pitch to the righthanded-hitting Nola was a 91-mph fastball up and away. Nola slapped the offering to the opposite field, clearing the once-loaded bases for the Phillies’ first hit and a three-run lead in a 3-1 victory over the Mets in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader at Citi Field.
It was the only hit Oswalt surrendered in six innings.
The Mets chose to intentionally walk Maikel Franco to get to Nola, figuring the pitcher would be the easier out. Normally, he would have been. But Oswalt threw him, in Callaway’s words, “the only pitch their pitcher could hit. You knew he was going to be swinging first pitch.”
Oswalt was perfect through four innings before walking Carlos Santana and Aaron Al t herr to begin the fifth. After Scott Kingery flied out and Jorge Alfaro grounded out, Callaway chose to put Franco on. Oswalt, looking to settle back in, grooved a fastball in hopes of getting ahead in the count.
“I walked two guys that inning, and then we put another guy on to get to him, so I was just going to attack him, try to get ahead and just get him out,” said Oswalt, who struck out seven and notched the first quality start of his career. “He jumped on a fastball right away. It put us in a bad spot.”
Aside from a rocky fifth inning, Oswalt thrived. He retired the side in order in the sixth before giving way to Paul Sewald.
Oswalt said he commanded all of his pitches and saw “big strides” from his curveball, noting the improved bite on the breaking pitch.
Despite taking the loss, he viewed the start as a positive.
“I think it’s a good step forward for me,” he said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t win the game. But yeah, I think it’s a good step forward.”
Callaway said Oswalt continues to get better.
“I thought he got to work with Dave [Eiland] in between again, and we saw improvement from the first start to the second start, and then we saw another dramatic improvement to this start,’’ he said.
Having taken his turn in the rotation for each of the last three starts, Oswalt said he’s getting used to a routine.
The 24-year-old righthander pounded the zone — Callaway noted how well he tossed first-pitch strikes — and he became the first pitcher in Mets history to throw at least six innings and allow no more than one hit in a start that came within his first four career games.
Said Callaway, “He did a great job today.”