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Must C Clinch: Phillies take NL East crown

PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Oswalt trotted down the hallway to the Phillies' clubhouse with a brand new hat askew and a smile just as crooked.

The veteran right-hander has been through a lot this season, from personal concerns after tornadoes ripped through his native Mississippi in April to a pair of DL stints because of lower back inflammation. Oswalt won't admit it, but it's a pretty sure bet he's heard talk about Vance Worley appearing in the postseason rotation over him. With all that in mind, Oswalt found himself in the perfect place to make a statement on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm not really going to be satisfied until we win that last game," Oswalt said. "I've done enough personal stuff that it really doesn't matter. All I want now is to win that last game. That's all any of us really want."

Oswalt threw seven shutout innings, struck out seven and scattered five hits while not surrendering a walk as the Phillies (98-52) clinched their fifth straight National League East title with a 9-2 win over the Cardinals (82-69). Oswalt beat St. Louis for the first time since Aug. 29, 2007, a span of eight starts that has seen him go 0-4 with a 4.50 ERA.

"Oswalt pitched very well," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We've seen that so many times over the years, and that's what you expect."

For much of this year, the Phillies didn't know what to expect from Oswalt, but he and pitching coach Rich Dubee believe they may have stumbled on something that will make a big difference. Oswalt's Aug. 19 outing against the Nationals was postponed a day, though he warmed up for the originally scheduled outing, and he was electric when the game was finally played. Because of that, he's been throwing a full bullpen session the day before each start.

"I think it gives you a little more feel for the ball," Oswalt said. "Sometimes you take two days off in between, and you're standing out there working on mechanics and not really throwing the ball. If you do it the day before, maybe it gives you a little more muscle memory."

"This guy has worked hard to get back to where he is," Dubee said. "We might be finding a new trick in the works. That night in Washington where he warmed up, and it rained, then he went the next night and pitched great. Yesterday, he came out and threw a 'pen, and today, his arm speed was great. That may be something we do the rest of the year."

Oswalt touched 94 mph and routinely hit 93 on Saturday. He is no stranger to big-game wins over the Cardinals, having pitched the Astros to the World Series with a stellar outing in Game 6 of the 2005 National League Championship Series. He was in control throughout Saturday and allowed only two runners to reach third base.

"I don't look at velocity," Oswalt said. "I look at how guys swing the bat, and that's how you can tell if you are throwing the ball hard, Some games you hit 94, and they hit it all over the park. If you look at the reactions of some of the guys tonight, you could tell the ball was jumping on some of the guys."

The Phillies held a one-run lead before they blew it open with a six-run eighth inning. Carlos Ruiz led off the frame by reaching second base on an error, and he moved to third on Jimmy Rollins' fourth hit. Shane Victorino hit a one-out single to center field to score Ruiz.

After Chase Utley was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Ryan Howard struck out, Hunter Pence singled to shortstop to score a run. That brought up Raul Ibanez, who put the game on ice with a long grand slam to right field.

The Phillies' offense remains a concern, but they broke a stretch of eight consecutive games in which the club scored three runs or fewer.

Oswalt made sure none of that mattered on Saturday. Comments