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PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Oswalt has been here before: Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with a pennant on the line. In 2005, he locked it up for the Astros against the Cardinals.
On Saturday night on FOX and Postseason.TV, he'll have another shot at it at Citizens Bank Park. This time the right-hander is pitching for the Phillies against the Giants, who lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2. For Philadelphia, it's another must-win game.
"I try to pitch every game like it's the last one," Oswalt said, during a news conference on Friday. "You never know, you're never guaranteed the next day. So it's going to be no different. I've got to try and attack hitters and make them beat me, not put guys on. It's no different than any other game. It's a must-win game, but I treat every one of them like a must-win."
Some, of course, are more significant than others. The Phillies put themselves in this position by staving off elimination with a 4-2 win in Thursday evening's Game 5 at San Francisco's AT&T Park. They forced a Game 6, and they can force a climactic Game 7 on Sunday with another victory.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said this weekend might be the ultimate test for a team that's survived many of them this season. The Giants won their first NL West title since 2003 by beating the Padres on the final day of the regular season, and could have wrapped up their first pennant since '02 with a win on Thursday night.
"Sure, it will be [a test]," Bochy said. "But I'll say this about the club: We've been tested all year. You go back to early August. We've been playing big games. We were 6 1/2 games back [on Aug. 25]. We went down to the wire. Now we're here in Philly, playing a tremendous team that's been to the World Series the last two years. No question, that's a test."
The pitching matchup seems to favor the Phillies: Oswalt against Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez.
It's a replay of Game 2, Philadelphia's most dominant performance thus far in the series. Oswalt pitched eight innings of three-hit ball and the Phillies won, 6-1. Sanchez pitched into the seventh inning and allowed three runs on five hits. He was the pitcher of record that clinching day in San Francisco against the Padres, and pitched very well against Atlanta in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, allowing just one run on two hits in 7 1/3 innings.
"It doesn't make a difference," Sanchez said on Friday. "I've been in this situation before. I faced San Diego. I faced Atlanta. They're postseason games, so it's going to be the same."
Since Game 2 of the NLCS, though, Oswalt volunteered to pitch in the ninth inning of Game 4 on Thursday with the score 5-5. He faced four batters and lost after allowing a pair of singles and Juan Uribe's walk-off sacrifice fly. Oswalt threw in action that day and also pitched on the side. He is 33 and has 10 seasons under his belt, so there's no way of knowing how that will affect his preparation for what will be his 36th start of the year.
Oswalt minimized the toll the extra work might have on him, equating it to his work on the side that day.
"After throwing 18 pitches in the game that night, it was probably the same as a bullpen," Oswalt said.
The comparison to 2005 is a compelling one. The Astros had a 3-1 lead in the series and led the Cardinals, 4-2, in the ninth inning of Game 5 at Minute Maid Park with two outs and two runners on. It was Brad Lidge against Albert Pujols, while a crowd of 43,470 urged the Astros toward their first and only NL pennant. Pujols crushed the ball to left field and into the night, sending the series back to old Busch Stadium.
Oswalt was hardly daunted. Two days later, he pitched a four-hitter, closing down the old ballpark and sending the Astros to the World Series, where they were swept by the White Sox.
The Phillies have been talking for days about playing with their backs to the wall. So they can't be any more comfortable than settling in behind Oswalt, whom they acquired in a trade with the Astros this past July 29. Oswalt was 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in six regular-season starts at Citizens Bank Park, and is 1-0 in the postseason.
"Yes, I'm very confident of that, big time," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I'm like you [reporters] in a lot of ways -- when I look at things and something pops out. When I see 7-1 at home, that stands out. Hey, I want this guy pitching at home, of course."
History favors San Francisco. Of the 30 previous teams to take a 3-1 lead since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, 24 have gone to the World Series. The last team to come back from that deficit in the NL was the 2003 Marlins against the Cubs. The last team to do it in the AL was the '07 Red Sox over the Indians. So there is indeed precedence.
But the Giants can review their own history. They had a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS after playing the middle three games at Candlestick Park. Despite winning Game 5, they lost the final two games and the series at old Busch Stadium. So they may only have a figurative upper hand this time around.
Tim Lincecum, who lost to a hobbled Roy Halladay on Thursday, said the team still believes in itself. After all, Lincecum defeated Halladay, 4-3, in Game 1 on the road. Thus, the Giants know they are capable of winning in their opponent's home yard under enormous pressure.
"As far as confidence goes, we have tons of it in here," Lincecum said. "We just want to get that win. All we need is one out of two."
The Phillies, of course, have to win two. This is their ninth playoff series in the past three years. Even last fall, when they fell behind, 3-1, to the Yankees in the World Series, they won Game 5 at home, sending the series back to Yankee Stadium. There, they lost.
"We did what we had to do and we're going home," said reliever Ryan Madson, who pitched a lights-out eighth inning in Game 5, striking out the side. "Hopefully on Saturday we'll do it again."