While ESPN’s Jayson Stark does his usual thorough, entertaining job in breaking down the moment Charlie Manuel’s contract extension may have gotten shuffled underneath Pat Gillick’s copy of AARP magazine (Modern Maturity was still a better name as far as I’m concerned) the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Phil Sheridan is the voice of reason (a.k.a, the guy I most agree with):
The Phillies’ stars have been dimmed or gone completely dark in this series. That is why this team flew to Denver last night needing to win three games in a row against the hottest team in baseball.
In both games here, Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle allowed his pitcher to bat with runners on base, then removed that pitcher for the bottom of the inning. That’s ridiculous, but no one is second-guessing Hurdle today because his hitters have come up big and his relievers have owned the Phillies.
Give a manager good hitting and pitching, and he can mess up with impunity….
In the fourth, after another leadoff double, Brad Hawpe crushed a pitch to left. Pat Burrell caught it on the dead run, but it was a loud-enough out to get Manuel’s attention. Lohse, the safety net in case of an early blowup, started warming up for the second time. Kendrick got a second out, then fell behind Yorvit Torrealba, three balls and a strike. A very second-guessable decision was made here. At 3-1, Kendrick would have to throw a strike to Torrealba, who had two hits in Game 1. Manuel decided to have Kendrick intentionally walk Torrealba and get a fresh start against a likely pinch-hitter.
Seth Smith, the pinch-hitter, hit a weak grounder that third baseman Wes Helms could do nothing with. The bases were loaded. Manuel came out for Kendrick.
It is grossly inaccurate to say Kendrick was lifted for giving up a weak infield single. He was lifted because of the rockets hit by the first two hitters in the fourth inning, and the earlier rockets hit by the next three batters due up.
Lohse had warmed up twice. It was now or never for him. If he could get Matsui, he could pitch until Manuel turned the game over to the back end of his bullpen in the seventh. It was a sound strategy until Lohse threw a 1-2 fastball in the only place Matsui could drive it out of the park.
I personally had no problem with the hook. It might not have been the right decision, but the talk radio chorus would be just as loud if Kendrick had stayed in and given up a three-run double. Then the story would have been “why did Charlie even start this guy? He had a 7.00 season ERA against the Rockies!”
I do however, kind of agree with Stark that maybe Lohse was simply not right for the situation:
This was the 224th time Lohse had appeared on a mound in a major-league game, if you count the postseason. But just once in all those times — on July 21, 2006 — had he been brought out of anybody’s bullpen with the bases loaded. (The result that time: a Jason Michaels sacrifice fly.)
Manuel said he liked the matchup with Matsui, liked Lohse’s “experience,” liked the fact that Lohse had been “pitching real good out of the bullpen” in two previous emergency appearances down the stretch — even though he’d come in to start innings in both of those other outings.
But then again, who else was he gonna go to, Jose Mesa?