Since 2008, Charlie Manuel has been a legend. A folk hero of sorts in Philadelphia. Much of this is justified; no matter what head-scratching move he made it always seemed to come out looking right.
Championships can put you on a pedestal. They can gain you immunity to the harsh airwaves of local sportstalk or tabloids. But they cannot serve as an excuse for a poorly done job.
Wednesday night was not Uncle Charlie’s finest hour.
The Phils skipper made several head-scratching moves that did not turn out in his favor. Not sending runners, not playing small ball, leaving pitchers out to dry, using starters in relief on absurdly short rest for a non-elimination game. The list goes on and on.
Let’s look past the decision to stick with number four Joe Blanton rather than going back to his ace Roy Halladay. You can make a case both ways on that and we all know hindsight is 20/20. Let’s just look at what Chuck did Wednesday.
We’ll start with big Joe though, who pitched a typical Joe Blanton type game. 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER. With two outs in the fifth, Charlie decided to pull Blanton after just 63 pitches, which is an abnormally short leash to have on a pitcher you are accustomed to seeing used in an inning eater role. After a bit of a rocky first, Blanton seemed to be settled in, but got the hook as Buster Posey, who was 2-2 with 3 RBIs off Blanton Wednesday stepped to the plate.
Blanton made way for Jose Contreras who pitched well, but was immediately pinch hit for, completing just a third of an inning. Had Charlie taken his chances with Blanton, Contreras could have been saved for a full inning to help aide a shaky bullpen pull together four innings of relief.
In the sixth came Chad Durbin, who was just not on his game tonight. Durbin looked horrendous, surrendering two runs on as many hits, while allowing two walks, demonstrating little command of his pitches. He was in essence left out to dry, as it was clear from the jump that he didn’t have it. No bullpen activity through much of the inning left many scratching their heads. Durbin, simply put, didn’t deserve a full inning.
Another head-scratcher came in the eight inning, after Jayson Werth doubled in Ryan Howard to knot things up at five. Jimmy Rollins stepped in with Werth at second, but was unable to advance the runner, popping up the first pitch he saw to the third baseman. Anyone who knows baseball knows that with no outs, you have to advance the runner. You have to be a leader, like Rollins is supposed to be and give yourself up in that spot. But, given no bunt sign by Manuel, Rollins appeared to make no attempt to get the ball to the right side of the field, failing his job there miserably leading to a quick inning consisting of no further scoring.
“Rollins usually pulls the ball,” Manuel said when asked if considering a bunt in that situation. “He hits the ball to the right side of the diamond, that’s one of his strong points. He has a short quick swing from the left side and he usually pulls the ball. Not only that, but if he pulls the ball he also has a chance to get a hit or drive the run in. That’s how you play the game. ”
After Brian Wilson shut things down 1-2-3 in the top half of the ninth, Charlie elected to go with Roy Oswalt, pitching on two days rest in an unfamiliar role for the home half of the ninth. As Lidge and Kendrick watched from the bullpen, both warmed and ready, Oswalt surrendered back to back singles to Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, puttign runners at first and third for Juan Uribe.
Uribe teed off on Oswalt, who did not look like himself, shaking Ruiz off frequently and struggling with command of his pitches, sending a fly ball into right, scoring Huff on the sacrifice fly.
While this city is always willing to give Charlie the benefit of the doubt, tonight may serve as an exception. Bad baseball cost the Phillies a chance to tie the series and in the case, whether it’s Uncle Chuck or not, a lot of that blame must fall on the manager.