ST. LOUIS -- If a pesky squirrel darting across the home-plate area as he threw a pitch in the fifth inning was the most difficult thing Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt had to deal with Wednesday night, he would have been in pretty good shape.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese proved to be much more of a pest.
With a chance to finish off St. Louis in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium, Oswalt couldn't close the deal. He suffered his second career postseason loss after giving up six hits and five runs in six innings in a 5-3 loss to the Cards that evened the series at two games each.
Freese did most of the damage against Oswalt, ripping a two-run double in the fourth inning to give the Cardinals a lead before launching a long two-run homer to center field in the sixth to push St. Louis to within a game of eliminating favored Philadelphia.
"Two pitches, I guess," Oswalt deadpanned when asked what the difference was in the game.
The loss dropped Oswalt to 5-2 in his career in the playoffs, 2-1 with the Phillies.
"I thought I had pretty good stuff," he said. "I gave up five hits. All you can do is throw strikes and try to mix all your pitches, and for the most part, I did. Even the home run, I went back and looked at it, and it was a pretty good pitch, especially if he hit it out of center. If he pulled it down the line, it might have been different. But to hit it out of center, it was a pretty good swing."
Oswalt was trying to close out the Cardinals in a playoff series for the second time in his career. He beat St. Louis in Game 6 of the 2005 NL Championship Series in the last game at the old Busch Stadium, but he allowed five runs for the third time in his postseason career Wednesday.
Oswalt had a 2-1 lead entering the fourth, but he walked Lance Berkman and hit Matt Holliday to put himself in trouble. Hunter Pence made a leaping catch at the track to rob Yadier Molina of a hit, but Freese ripped the next pitch into the left-field corner to score a pair and put the Cards ahead, 3-2.
Freese, who was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in his career against Oswalt coming into the game, crushed an Oswalt pitch in the sixth inning and sent it over the wall in center field for a long two-run homer to stretch the St. Louis lead to 5-2.
"Overall, the pitches that really hurt me were the curveball to the third baseman," Oswalt said.
The fact he was spotted an early two-run lead didn't allow Oswalt to take his foot off the gas pedal.
"They still had nine innings left," he said. "It's good to get some early runs, for sure. I came back out and gave up one, but I felt pretty comfortable after that. Just two bad pitches."
Even when he enjoyed a 1-2-3 inning Wednesday, it wasn't without some unwanted traffic.
A squirrel ran onto the field and across the home-plate area as Oswalt was firing a pitching to Skip Schumaker in the fifth inning. Oswalt pleaded with the umpires to nullify the pitch, but plate umpire Angel Hernandez said the pitch -- a ball -- counted.
"He wouldn't take the pitch away, and I told him as I was throwing the ball [that] I saw this thing coming out of the corner of my eye," Oswalt said. "I didn't want to stop in the middle of my windup, so I threw it and asked, 'Can we take that pitch back?' He said, 'No.' He told me the count was 1-1, and I was like, 'OK.' When I got back on the mound, he told me '2-1.' We were going back and forth on that."