Squirrel zooms past plate during Oswalt pitch
Phillies starter argues after ball call, then questions pitch count
ST. LOUIS -- Things got a little hairy for Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in the fifth inning of Wednesday's Game 4 of the National League Division Series, which the Cardinals won, 5-3, to force a Game 5 on Friday.
A squirrel, the same kind of critter who dashed across the field in Tuesday's game, made its return in the fifth inning, racing from the first-base dugout and running past home plate while Oswalt delivered a pitch to second baseman Skip Schumaker.
The pitch, which hit the catcher's mitt a split second before the furry fellow crossed the home-plate area, was called a ball. The squirrel darted into the stands as Oswalt stood with his hands in the air, protesting the pitch should have been nullified because he was distracted.
"I was wondering what size animal it needed to be to not have a pitch," Oswalt said. "I got distracted. I didn't really know that would be a pitch. If it ran up the guy's leg, would he have called the pitch for a strike? It's hard to say."
Oswalt, who grew up in rural Weir, Miss., didn't flinch until after he threw the pitch.
"You notice that Roy wasn't the least bit bothered by it," said Lance Berkman, his former Astros teammate. "Where he's from, that's just par for the course."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had visions of squirrel season.
"There's not too much I can do about a squirrel running across the field," he said. "I don't know what I can do about that. Of course, being from the south and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have did something. I'm a pretty good shot."
Oswalt pleaded to home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez to wipe out the pitch, and he was soon back in Hernandez's ear in a disagreement over the count. The two talked it out, and Oswalt got Schumaker to fly out on the next pitch.
"He wouldn't take the pitch away, and I told him as I was throwing the ball, 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."
Schumaker, who injured his hamstring during the at-bat, couldn't believe his luck.
"I saw something in my peripheral [vision] go across," Schumaker said. "When I stepped out of the box, I saw it go under the stadium. It was strange. Of all the things that could have happened that at-bat, happened, so I'm glad I came out of the game."
The squirrel was unavailable for comment.