- Associated Press - Sunday, August 22, 2010

PHILADELPHIA | Roy Oswalt is having fun being back in a pennant race.

He’s winning games, getting run support and starring in a rotation that reminds him of the one from his only trip to the World Series.

Oswalt struck out eight in seven sharp innings and led the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-0 win over the Washington Nationals on a rainy Sunday.

“When you’re playing at the end of the season, it’s not near as intense as trying to get back into the postseason,” Oswalt said.

He’s leading the charge for Philadelphia’s fourth straight trip.

Oswalt (9-13) has won three straight starts for the first time this season, helping the wild-card leading Phillies try to make a move on Atlanta for the NL East lead.

“We’re not really looking at the wild card,” said Raul Ibanez, who homered. “Our goal is to win the division.”

Oswalt allowed five hits, and the Phillies backed him with the kind of run support he rarely got in Houston before getting traded in July. He never came out for the eighth after the game was delayed 1 hour, 44 minutes by rain.

The right-hander also got two hits and scored a run.

Oswalt pitched out of early-inning jams, leaving a runner stranded at third base in the first and fourth innings. Oswalt struck out the final two batters of each inning to end those threats.

Oswalt is 3-0 and has allowed only five earned runs over his last four starts. He’d received the second-lowest run support (2.61 runs) of any starters in the majors this season.

The Astros were shut out in five of his 20 starts.

“It’s fun to work with a few runs,” Oswalt said.

Oswalt is surrounded by aces.

Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels in Philadelphia remind Oswalt of the stellar staff in Houston when he was flanked by Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.

“It seems like it pushes you more when you’ve got guys on the squad that go out there and seem like they throw seven every time out,” he said. “It’s like an in-house competition among each other to push each other and see how good each other can be.”

Ryan Madson threw a scoreless eighth and J.C. Romero worked the ninth to combine for the Phillies‘ 15th shutout — the most since they had 17 in 1967. The Phillies blanked the Nats 1-0 on Friday.

“They have a real good rotation and it showed,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said.

The Phillies bounced back a day after they were beaten 8-1 by Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals bullpen.

Philadelphia is 22-7 since July 22 and has a fourth straight NL East title in its sight. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who both returned from the disabled list in the last week, sat out Sunday, presumably healthy and fresh for the Phillies‘ ongoing run of 24 games in 23 days.

Ibanez hit his 12th homer of the season, a two-run shot, not long after the tarp was removed in the seventh for a 6-0 lead.

Placido Polanco had two RBIs on a sacrifice fly and single, and Wilson Valdez had a two-run single in the sixth. The Phillies scored four runs against Nationals starter Scott Olsen (3-6).

Oswalt’s start means he’ll miss pitching against his former Houston teammates during a four-game series that opens Monday.

The Phillies will face two of their former starters in J.A. Happ, traded for Oswalt, and Brett Myers.

“What do I think of them? I think we’re going to take it to ‘em,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Nationals put a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the first four innings. Oswalt fanned Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman to end the first, and whiffed Michael Morse and Adam Kennedy to finish the fourth.

“We couldn’t finish anything off against Oswalt,” Riggleman said.

Jimmy Rollins hit a leadoff double in the Phillies first and later scored on Polanco’s sacrifice fly. Polanco’s RBI single in the third drove in Oswalt.

With runners on second and third and two outs in the sixth, Olsen intentionally walked Carlos Ruiz. Valdez, who hit into a double play in the second, lined a single to center for a 4-0 lead.

NOTES: The Nationals will wait for results of an MRI exam on Strasburg before deciding what to do with their ace right-hander. Strasburg strained a tendon in his right forearm in Saturday night’s start. He was scheduled to have the MRI on Sunday. … The Phillies honored umpire Jerry Crawford for his 33 years of service. Crawford will retire at the end of the season. … Nationals analyst, and former Reds closer, Rob Dibble said he’ll miss manager Lou Piniella. Piniella, who retired Sunday, managed Dibble and the Reds to the 1990 World Series championship. “As far as respecting the game, Lou taught me an awful lot about that,” Dibble said. … The Nationals were shut out for the ninth time.

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