Halladay set the bar high with a brilliant performance in the Phillies' 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NL division series on Wednesday.
Next up is Oswalt. He starts Game 2 on Friday.
"We're up 1-0. And, you know, like that's kind of how I want Roy Oswalt to feel. I just want him to do the same thing that Roy Halladay did," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Thursday. "Just go out there and be comfortable, get a comfortable atmosphere and pitch to his ability and his knowledge on how to pitch. Just be himself."
The only way for Oswalt to top Halladay would be to pitch a perfect game. Don Larsen has the only one in the postseason, throwing it for the New York Yankees against Brooklyn in the 1956 World Series.
While Halladay is a leading candidate to win the NL Cy Young Award and now has a no-hitter to go with his perfect game earlier this season, Oswalt was Philadelphia's best pitcher down the stretch.
Acquired from Houston on July 29, the three-time All-Star went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 13 games with the Phillies. Oswalt was 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his last 10 starts. Halladay was 8-2 with a 3.10 ERA during that span. Hamels was pretty impressive, too. He was 5-3 with a 2.15 ERA.
"Any time you get involved with a group that you have here, as far as the atmosphere and the starting staff and the guys on the team, you come into the clubhouse and you just kind of expect to win," Oswalt said. "You have so much talent one through eight in the lineup. You have a team that plays with the starting staff, and you have a real good mix of guys here. We try to pull for each other and push each other as much as possible."
Oswalt was part of another rotation that featured three aces when he pitched in Houston. The Astros had Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte from 2004-06. They won the NLCS in '05 before getting swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
"I compare the starting staff a lot to '05," Oswalt said. "I've been doing it since I got here. Watching Halladay and Cole, they remind me a lot of Clemens and Pettitte. They were on top of their game there then and these guys are here, too. So, it helps our starting staff out a lot when you start kind of watching each other pitch and kind of feeding off each other."
Oswalt has dominated the Reds throughout his career. He won his first 15 decisions, and is 23-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 34 games against Cincinnati. But the right-hander hasn't had much success lately, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his only two starts this season.
Overall, Oswalt was 13-13 with a 2.76 ERA this year. He's never lost a game at Citizens Bank Park, going 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 starts. He's 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in six home starts with the Phillies.
"I think the bottom line is we're a different team this year, and we have an approach that we have figured out that works for us, and that we're able to execute," Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. "I think numbers have something to do with it, too. He beat us (23) times. I mean, it was almost, you know, time was on our side, I think, and the numbers were on our side a little bit. But I think the biggest thing is the execution factor and the fact that we have an approach that works and that works consistently. It's shown all year that we led the National League in hitting. So I think that that speaks volumes as well."
The Reds led the NL in batting average (.278), homers (188) and runs (790), but they haven't scored in 30 innings against Philadelphia. The Phillies won consecutive 1-0 games to complete a four-game sweep before the All-Star break and Halladay opened the playoffs with his gem.
"This is a very resilient team," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Invariably every time we've had a tough go, usually we come back and win. So once you've done it once, you can do it again, and do it again, and do it again."
Bronson Arroyo, one of six Reds with previous postseason experience, will try to send the series back to Cincinnati even at 1. Arroyo is 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA in eight games against Philadelphia. The right-hander was 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA this year.
Arroyo played for Boston in 2004 when the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to win the World Series. He's pitched in a hostile atmosphere in the postseason, and won't let the Philly fans bother him.
"I expect a very Yankee Stadium-esque environment, especially warming up in the bullpen," Arroyo said. "I know these fans here are serious about the game. They've been touted for a long time, especially in the NFL, as some of the craziest in the game. So you prepare yourself mentally to deal with all the raw emotion and excitement that's going on around. You try to suppress it as much as possible, not to burn off too much excess energy before you get out there on the mound and get deep in the game. But I've always enjoyed it. I loved playing in the stadiums when guys are screaming obscenities about my mother."