Oswalt early king of Phillies' aces

Phillies starter Roy Oswalt pitches against the Giants during Game 6 of their MLB NLCS playoff...

Phillies starter Roy Oswalt pitches against the Giants during Game 6 of their MLB NLCS playoff series in Philadelphia, Penn. on October 23, 2010. (BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters)

MICHAEL RUSHTON, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 4:07 PM ET

With most of the baseball world having settled on the "Four Aces" nickname for the Philadelphia Phillies' starting core of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, it is Oswalt who has taken on the reign as early king of the court.

Through four starts, Oswalt is the early team leader in wins, going 3-0 with a 1.88 earned run average that is tops among the Phillies' five starters. He has also been the lone mark of consistency, having yet to allow more than two runs in a start. Halladay, Lee and Hamels, meanwhile, have all been tagged for six runs in an outing already this season.

It's tough to imagine that Oswalt is maybe the least popular of the Phillies' version of The Beatles. After all, Halladay and Lee have both won Cy Young Awards, with Halladay capturing the National League version of the honor last season, and Hamels was World Series MVP in 2008.

What has Oswalt done during his short time in Philadelphia? How about a 10-1 record and 1.77 ERA since joining the Phillies prior to last year's non-waiver trade deadline. His latest gem came on Thursday when he held the Padres to just one hit and two walks over six innings of a 3-0 victory, striking out a season-best seven over 106 pitches that maybe prevented him from going deeper.

"He really had his good stuff," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. "He had a good changeup tonight and his fastball was good. But (the Padres) did work him and they made him earn everything he got and they ran his pitch count up."

Manuel also had to be encouraged by Oswalt's outing after he left his previous start versus the Marlins on April 15 due to a back strain.

Marlins: injury gets Cousins a chance

Scott Cousins didn't waste much time in showing Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez that he can help fill the void left by Logan Morrison's ailing left foot.

Cousins came off the bench to start Thursday's game and hit a grand slam in a 9-5 victory over the Pirates, helping Florida to a three-game sweep while becoming the seventh player in team history to have his first career home run come in the form of a grand slam.

"Great feeling to get the first career home run out of the way and for it to be a grand slam to boot is pretty cool," Cousins said. "To come in and do my part and help us get a sweep was very cool."

Cousins, who can play all three outfield spots, will likely get a chance to do some more damage as Morrison, the team's regular left fielder, is expected to miss the next 2-to-4 weeks with a left foot injury. He showed a quick ability to adjust from his reserve role after being a regular starter in the minor leagues.

With wins in six of their last seven games, the Marlins are five games above .500 (11-6) for the first time since closing out the 2009 season at 87-75.

Nationals: bats continue to struggle

The Nationals managed just two hits in Thursday's 5-0 loss to the Cardinals, but manager Jim Riggleman isn't pushing the panic button for Washington's offense just yet.

"They pitched and we didn't hit. You know, it was only three games before that we were putting double-figure hits out there," said Riggleman. "So, you know it's just a couple of games."

Riggleman was referring to a three-game stretch from April 17-20 in which Washington totaled 32 hits in winning each game, but despite that production there is still some concern. The Nationals are second-to-last in baseball with a team average of .218 (ahead of only San Diego's .217 clip) and have been held to six hits or less in five of their last eight games.

Production could increase when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman returns from a left abdominal strain that has had him on the shelf since April 9, but a return date for the former All-Star is still unknown.

In the meantime, the Nationals continue to waste solid pitching. Washington starters are fourth in the National League with a 3.57 earned run average and the Nats are the only club in baseball whose rotation has gone at least five innings in every game this season, but the group is just a collective 6-7.

Braves: Heyward struggling before big showdown

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey got the best of Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward on two fronts last year. Not only did Posey edge out Heyward for the National League Rookie of the year honor, but his Giants also defeated the Braves in the National League Divisional Series.

The two are set to rematch this weekend as Atlanta begins a three-game series at San Francisco on Friday, but Heyward isn't exactly bringing a hot bat into the clash.

Heading into Thursday's game at the Dodgers, the 21-year-old was in the midst of a 3-for-32 slump that had lowered his batting average to .190. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided it was time to rest his slugger.

"There are certain times during the course of the year you have to give a guy a little breather," Gonzalez told Atlanta's official website. "A day game with a [left-hander] pitching is a good time."

Despite not starting, Heyward did see action in an extra-innings loss, coming in as a pinch-runner and scoring a run. He stayed in the game, but did not manage a hit at the plate.

Mets: Bay finally makes debut

One concussion and rib injury later and Jason Bay was finally ready to make his return to the New York Mets.

Bay was in Thursday's lineup versus the Houston Astros for the first time since July 25 of last year. He finished out the 2010 season on the disabled list because of a concussion, then had his start to this campaign delayed due to a rib injury. The outfielder went 1-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and two strikeouts in a 9-1 win, just New York's second in its last 11 games.

Manager Terry Collins was happy to have his All-Star slugger back in the lineup.

"You're getting another guy who's a star," Collins said on New York's official website. "That's a huge addition to anybody's lineup, and right now we need it here. We need his presence. We need everything he brings to the table."

The Mets are hoping Bay's return can help them rebound from a 6-13 start that already has them 6 1/2 games back of first place in the division heading into play on Friday.


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