"Looking at the team as a whole, one through nine, it's probably the best lineup in the game," Oswalt said. "I was thinking that if I could get over here and help the team out, as far as eating up some innings and take a little pressure off the bullpen, that maybe it would push them over the top."
Oswalt, who is 5-2 with a 3.73 ERA in his playoff career, is excited at the possibility of pitching in the postseason again. Four times Oswalt has helped a team reach the playoffs, twice in nine years with the Astros and twice in as many seasons with the Phillies. The 2005 season, when Oswalt was with Houston, was the only time he pitched in the World Series. Now, he's trying to help the Rangers reach their third straight Fall Classic.
"This is the team to beat," Oswalt said. "I made the decision to wait until the season started. It gave me a little bit of an opportunity to evaluate the teams and see just who I thought would be the best team going into it. A lot of times, you look good on paper at the beginning of the season, and then things can change here and there."
In Oswalt's only World Series appearance, in Game 3 of the 2005 Fall Classic, he allowed five runs -- all in the fifth inning -- on eight hits over six innings while striking out three and walking five. The White Sox sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth, beginning with a Joe Crede leadoff home run. The Astros went on to lose, 7-5, in 14 innings, and were eventually swept.
The part of that game most vivid in Oswalt's memory was when he faced A.J. Pierzynski in that fifth inning. The Astros led, 4-3, when Pierzynski stepped into the batter's box with runners on first and second. Oswalt recalls falling behind in the count before Pierzynski doubled and drove in the game-tying and go-ahead runs.
"I remember I should have kept pounding in on him, and I went away and he got a hit. That's one thing that sticks out in my mind," Oswalt said. "I felt strong going into the game. I just had a bad inning. ... One bad pitch killed me that game. We could have won that game. But you live and learn."
Oswalt's extensive postseason experience should serve the Rangers well. He's taken the loss in two of his past three playoff appearances. But Oswalt, the 2005 NL Championship Series MVP, was 5-0 through his first eight postseason starts. And he's looking forward to providing a veteran presence for a team whose Opening Day rotation included four starters younger than 27.
"I'm really excited to get to throw with some of these guys," Oswalt said. "Derek Holland, I think, has a lot of upside. I preached to Wandy Rodriguez for two or three years on how to prepare for the game. He's one of the better lefties in the game right now. A lot of guys, if you can just bring that confidence to them, they have the stuff to compete."
Before the season, Rangers CEO and team president Nolan Ryan, along with general manager Jon Daniels, met with Oswalt, who expressed interest in joining the team. But at the time, it didn't work out.
"I told them I'd love to join the team if they had a spot," Oswalt said. "At the beginning of the season, they didn't. And I understood. They had guys that were putting up numbers and winning games. Why change?"
The Rangers went later into a season than they ever had before making their first roster move when Neftali Feliz was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation on May 21. His replacement in the rotation, Scott Feldman, is 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA and has not made it out of the fifth inning in four starts this season.
Once Oswalt is ready to join the big league team, which he believes he'll be able to do after four starts, he'll likely replace Feldman in the rotation. Also, Feliz may return to the bullpen when he's ready to rejoin the pitching staff.
Oswalt, like the rest of his new teammates, can't wait to return to the World Series.
"I've got every other ring," Oswalt said. "That's the one I want."