PHILADELPHIA — Nolan Ryan once found himself on a game show with the legendary Satchel Paige. The two killed time talking baseball, and for Ryan it was another chapter in his hardball education.
Paige asked Ryan at one point if he knew the best pitch in baseball, and the self-conscious Ryan didn't want to embarrass himself. He said he wasn't sure.
"Bow tie," Paige told him.
"I never heard of it, Satch," Ryan said. "What kind of pitch is that?"
"That's when you throw a fastball right here," Paige answered, running his hand across his Adam's apple, and smiling wickedly.
Ryan loved the name, and the pitch. It was exactly the one that Oswalt threw to the Giants' Cody Ross in the second inning on Sunday night — an 0-1 fastball that was neck high and about a foot inside the plate. Ross backed out, and the 46,099 at Citizens Bank Park roared their approval.
Ross was not intimidated. He took a walk in that plate appearance and then struck back with a solo home run in the fifth inning, his fourth homer of the playoffs.
Ross' teammates, however, suffered sympathy pains. Oswalt, acquired from the Astros in July, blew away the Giants' work-in-progress lineup on three hits in eight innings in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. He carried the Phillies to a 6-1 victory, evening the series one game apiece heading to San Francisco.
Oswalt battled Sanchez in a game that stood at 2-1 through six, buying time for a Phillies' lineup that was being held in check in the big at-bats (5-for-35 with runners in scoring position in the playoffs).
"He was great,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Oswalt. "He's a really good pitcher. He was on tonight, had really good stuff. We knew we had our work cut out (for us)."
The Philadelphia strut returned in a four-run seventh off Sanchez and three relievers, the biggest blow being Jimmy Rollins' bases-loaded double high off the right-field wall against Santiago Casilla.
Restoring Rollins' confidence had been a major priority for manager Charlie Manuel and hitting coach Greg Gross, who had seen him add a 1-for-15 start in the playoffs on top of a season in which he battled hamstring problems and hit only .243.
Sanchez, who had pitched a masterpiece against the Braves in the division series, was wild at the start against the Phillies. A throwing error by former Cub Mike Fontenot contributed to the bases being loaded with only one out, and Sanchez couldn't quite escape. He struck out Jayson Werth for the second out, but then walked Rollins, giving the Phillies the early lead.
"I thought that was a good at-bat for him," Manuel said. "Seemed like he was seeing the ball better after that at-bat."
Before the game, Oswalt thought back to 2005. He was the Astros' starter in Game 6 of the NLCS in St. Louis after Albert Pujols had homered to win Game 5, stopping the Astros from clinching at Minute Maid Park.
At Busch Stadium, he held Pujols hitless in three at-bats and carried the Astros to a 5-1 win, touching off a delayed celebration.
"The big thing is momentum," Oswalt said. "You're trying to make the momentum come back on your side."
Mission accomplished, tied with a bow.