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FLA@PHI: Oswalt tosses six strong but leaves early

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies hope they lost only a game Friday at Citizens Bank Park, and not one of their four aces.

Roy Oswalt left a 4-3 loss to the Marlins in the top of the seventh inning because of a strained lower back. He said he injured himself while throwing a pitch in the fifth. He pitched through back spasms in the fifth and sixth innings, but the back tightened as he ran to first base after bunting a ball in the sixth.

Oswalt has a history of back problems, but he said this injury is unrelated.

"I probably could have finished the seventh," Oswalt said. "I didn't want to push it that far where I have to miss a start. I'm hoping to be OK in two days, throw a bullpen and be ready to start against Milwaukee [on Wednesday]."

Is he hopeful or certain he will make his next start?

"I think I'll make it," he said.

It would be a blow to lose Oswalt for an extended period of time, if the injury is worse than he believes. He is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA after three starts this season, and is a big reason why many consider the Phillies favorites to win their third National League pennant in four years.

Oswalt allowed four hits, two runs, one walk, one home run and struck out six in six innings before leaving the game after throwing a few warm-up pitches in the seventh.

Oswalt said he told pitching coach Rich Dubee following his sixth-inning at-bat that he felt tightness in his back, so when the Phillies noticed Oswalt laboring through his first few warm-up pitches, manager Charlie Manuel and assistant athletic trainer Marc Andersen went to the mound to retrieve him.

Oswalt has had back issues before. He left two starts in 2009 because of back injuries: July 28 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field and Sept. 5 against the Phillies at Minute Maid Park. He went on the disabled list Sept. 16 with a strained lower back and missed the last couple weeks of the season.

He also spent time on the DL in 2008 and '06 because of back and hip problems.

"This is totally different," Oswalt said. "This is nothing like that. This is middle back. It's not really lower back. Most of the time when I have trouble with it, it's lower back. This is middle. I felt like I could have maybe gotten through the seventh, but I didn't want to go out there, get in trouble and then have to bring somebody in to clean up the mess."

The bullpen made its own mess. Phillies left-hander J.C. Romero started the seventh. Logan Morrison hit a ball back to Romero, but the ball deflected off his glove for a hit. Manuel pulled Romero for right-hander Danys Baez, who walked Gaby Sanchez and allowed a single to John Buck to load the bases. Baez then allowed a one-out single to left field to former Phillies pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to score two runs and give the Marlins the lead.

Philadelphia had left-hander Antonio Bastardo ready in the bullpen, but Manuel stuck with Baez against the left-handed-hitting Dobbs.

Why Baez instead of Bastardo against Dobbs?

"Just as I bring in Bastardo with the bases loaded, here comes [right-handed-hitting)] Wes Helms," Manuel said. "Helms hits lefties good. He's patient. He's a very patient hitter. It was Bastardo on Helms, or Baez on Dobbs. I chose Baez on Dobbs."

Dobbs said he got no extra satisfaction from beating his former team.

"The satisfaction comes if I had gotten it against the Mets or the Dodgers or San Diego," he said. "Who we're playing doesn't matter. It's the situation, doing what I can to advance a runner, get a runner in. One run was all I was thinking. It didn't matter what the name on the jersey said. You're just playing the game, that's it."

The Phillies had chances to beat the Marlins early with right-hander Javier Vazquez on the mound, but they couldn't come up with the big hit.

The biggest hit came with Oswalt's injury. He insisted it is nothing serious.

"I've never had a back spasm," he said. "The doctors said I might have tweaked it a little bit. It tightened up. It's not to the point where it's unbearable, but it's to the point where I didn't want to keep pushing it." Comments