<
>

Pujols and Oswalt are familiar foes

The Philadelphia Phillies look to wrap things up on Wednesday in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. A look at some key storylines going into the evening:

Inside the Series

The Phillies took Game 3 on Tuesday, and history shows the importance of that. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when a five-game Division Series is tied after the first two games, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 19 of 23 times since 1995.

Philadelphia is 3-0 all-time in Game 4 of a divisional series. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies have won each of the last six postseason games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent. The streak, which dates to 2008, is tied for the second longest in MLB history. The A’s won nine straight potential series clinchers from 1973 to 1990.

On the Mound

Roy Oswalt takes the mound for the Phillies, boasting a 5-0 career record in 10 postseason starts (note: his loss in the 2010 NLCS came in relief). According to Elias, he would be just the fifth pitcher to win his first six postseason decisions as a starter. Orlando Hernandez won his first eight. He is followed by Cliff Lee (seven), Orel Hershiser (seven) and Lefty Gomez (six).

Roy Oswalt

OswaltOswalt is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three career postseason starts against the Cardinals. However, he hasn’t faced them in the playoffs since Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS.

The Cardinals counter with Edwin Jackson, who after 173 regular season starts is making his first in the postseason. In 2008, Jackson’s 14 wins were tied for the most on the Tampa Bay Rays, but he was relegated to the bullpen for the postseason.

Jackson hasn’t lost since August 20, a span of seven starts in which he is 3-0 with a 3.02 ERA. His success has come from a consistent ability to work out of jams. As Elias notes, opponents are batting .339 with the bases empty against Jackson, the highest such average among qualifying pitchers. However, he also held opponents to a .216 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Matchups to Watch

In what could potentially be his final game in a Cardinals uniform, Albert Pujols will face a familiar foe in Oswalt. No one has more career plate appearances (102), hits (30) or home runs (seven) against Oswalt. That success has carried over to the postseason, when Pujols is 4-for-9 with two home runs and four RBI against Oswalt.

Jackson has only one career start against the Phillies, and a limited track record against their key players. However, keep an eye on Shane Victorino solely for where he hits in the lineup. Opposing No. 5 hitters combined to hit .353 with 6 HR, 18 RBI and a 1.103 OPS against Jackson this season. Only Joe Saunders (1.124) allowed a higher OPS from the five spot.