SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Roy Oswalt's cranky back will have to be tended to with care the rest of the season. He hopes he can take the strain of a pennant race and still be going strong.
Oswalt went six quality innings in his first start since June 23 for the Philadelphia Phillies and called it a success despite losing 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, ending the Phillies' nine-game winning streak.
Jeff Keppinger had four hits and the Giants spoiled Oswalt's return from the disabled list. San Francisco avoided a four-game sweep in a matchup of NL division leaders.
``Keppinger is a tough out,' Oswalt said. ``He doesn't try to do too much. You don't worry about the long ball with him but he's always going to give you a pretty good at bat.'
The NL East-leading Phillies, with the majors' best record at 74-40, hadn't lost since dropping two of three to the Giants in Philly from July 26-28.
``Unless you win the World Series no one cares if you win the division by one game or 25 games,' Oswalt said. ``It's what you play for. I could have stayed in Houston for the rest of my career. But I came here because I want a ring.'
Tim Lincecum (10-9) allowed seven hits and one run, struck out five and walked one in 7 2-3 innings. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star beat the Phillies for the second time in three starts.
Oswalt (4-7), facing Lincecum in their seventh career regular-season meeting, gave up a season-high 12 hits in his first start since missing 37 games with lower back inflammation. He is 1-7 since beginning the year 3-0.
``He's still pretty good,' Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel said. ``He threw 93 pitches, gave up 12 hits but hung in there. He needed game competition and he got it today. He looks healthy, moved pretty good and threw pretty good.'
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard went 1 for 12 with eight strikeouts in the series and was 3 for 24 in seven games against the Giants this year. He struck out 12 times in 22 at_bats last October when San Francisco beat Philadelphia in the six-game NL championship series.
The Giants produced 13 hits and avoided their first four-game sweep by the Phillies since losing in Philly from May 13-16, 1982 - and at home since Aug. 6-8, 1943, while playing in New York.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz took a third-inning foul tip by Lincecum in the facemask but stayed in the game after being examined by trainers. He had two hits.
NOTES: Phillies 3B Placido Polanco flew home to Philadelphia to undergo an MRI exam Monday on his sore left hip. He came out of Saturday's game with the injury, which he said had been bothering him for some time and wasn't a result of being tackled by Giants catcher Eli Whiteside during the fracas Friday. ... Oswalt had his third hit of the year with a leadoff single in the third. ... San Francisco INF Miguel Tejada will likely go on a short rehab assignment soon before returning from the DL with a lower abdominal strain. ... The Phillies continue their 10-game road trip against the NL West at Dodger Stadium. Roy Halladay (14-4), who has won three straight starts, will start the opener. Philadelphia is headed into Game 18 of 20 in a row without a day off.
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