SAN FRANCISCO - Kyle Kendrick?

Not when it mattered.

With only Kendrick, flailing lefty J.C. Romero and closer Brad Lidge left in his bullpen, Charlie Manuel instead chose Door No. 3.

He pressed starter Roy Oswalt into service last night.

"I decided about the eighth inning," the Phillies manager said.

Sort of.

Actually, Oswalt pressed himself into service. Oswalt ran into the clubhouse and switched into his spikes when the Phillies tied the game in the eighth. He then informed pitching coach Rich Dubee that, even having gone eight innings in Game 2 on Sunday and due to start in Game 6 on Saturday, he could pitch an inning.

He'd already thrown his regular bullpen session, but, hey, in his mind, all hands needed to be on deck, so he raised his.

"I just thought that maybe I could eat up one inning if the game stays tied, and we can get a run in the 10th, then Brad could save it," Oswalt said.

If the Phillies fell behind the Giants, three games to one, Oswalt figured, there might not be a Game 6.

"This time of year, you've got to pitch. It doesn't really matter," he said.

"He'd told [pitching coach Rich] Dubee he could go. He said he wanted to be in there. He'd be glad to go," Manuel said.

Oswalt had kind of done this sort of thing before. After starting Game 4 of the 2004 NLCS, Oswalt relieved Roger Clemens in Game 7. Of course, 3 days elapsed between those appearances. And that, by definition, was a knockout game.

This time, down, 2-1, in a best-of-seven series, in a tie game in the top of the ninth, Manuel gave Oswalt the chance to lose two playoff games in the span of 3 days.

Oswalt is halfway there.

Manuel had burned righthanded relievers Jose Contreras, then Chad Durbin, then Ryan Madson. Kendrick, the club's fifth starter, who had been left off the roster in the NL Division Series, was left, and he was hot.

And was passed over.

Instead, Oswalt pitched on 2 days' rest.

"He knows what he's doing'" said Lidge, who stood beside Oswalt as they warmed up in the exposed bullpen down the rightfield line.

As the closer in Houston, Lidge witnessed Oswalt's two-inning, one-run relief effort behind Clemens: "I just told him to go get 'em, just do his thing."

He went at 'em, sure enough.

Oswalt fired 94-mph fastballs, but lacked the sharpness he showed Sunday night. Freddy Sanchez lined a fastball to rightfield, which Jayson Werth, cheating in, slid and caught.

Aubrey Huff pulled a changeup into rightfield.

Buster Posey, who earlier in the at-bat nearly kept one fair to rightfield, slapped a slider to right and moved Huff to third, Posey's fourth hit of the night. That nearly was an RBI hit but for Werth's quick coverage and desperate skid at the warning track that kept it out of the corner. Still, fatefully, Huff moved to third.

"Probably the worst pitch was to Buster, the slider down and away, off the plate, but he was kind of looking out over the plate," Oswalt said. "I should have come back in on him."

And then, with that one out, Oswalt dealt a 1-2 changeup that Juan Uribe lofted just deep enough to left to score the winner.

"We go with our best right there, and Roy is definitely our best," Kendrick said. "That was definitely the right decision. It just didn't work out."

Perhaps.

Kendrick hardly could have done worse. *