Rich Hofmann | Maybe Charlie and I were wrong ...

Posted: June 18, 2007

THE CUD WAS being chewed and chewed again because that is what we do. Starting pitcher is replaced. Bullpen erupts in flames. A 3-1 lead turns into a 7-4 defeat. Chew, rechew.

And Adam Eaton, the starting pitcher in question, said, "It's the game of baseball. You roll the dice sometimes, and sometimes you come up snake eyes."

We will take this step by step, inch by painful inch, just because. It began in the seventh inning yesterday at Citizens Bank Park when Phils manager Charlie Manuel trudged to the mound to go get Eaton.

Eaton had pitched well, continuing the turnaround of his slow-starting season. He had allowed one run and six hits through the first 6 1/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers. With one out in the seventh, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge doubled to the wall in left-center and pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen followed with a sharply hit single to center. That is when Manuel came out and waved for Geoff Geary from the bullpen.

Truth in advertising: After the second hard-hit ball, my reaction in the press box was on the order of, "He has to go get him." So I was fine with it when Manuel came out after pinch-hitter Gary Sheffield was announced. I was even more fine with it when I saw Sheffield's lifetime stats against Eaton: 4-for-14 with two homers and five RBI. Including walks, Sheffield had reached base in nine out of 19 plate appearances against Eaton.

"He was right at 100 pitches," Manuel said. "I felt like I wanted Geary on Sheffield. Sheffield's had success on Eaton in the past. I wanted Geary on Sheffield."

For his part, Eaton said he wanted to stay in.

"If you start an inning, you always want to finish it, regardless of lefty-righty matchups," Eaton said. "Obviously, I've faced Sheffield quite a few times in the past and I feel pretty comfortable with him at the plate and have a good idea about how to get him out.

"But, obviously, they had seen enough and took me out. Obviously, if things had turned out a little differently, it would be a moot point. You've got to respect the decision that was made . . .

"Obviously, he had to make a decision. Obviously, I respect his decision. But at the same time, I wish I could have continued in that inning. That's just my competitive nature. I wanted to go out there and compete."

But the numbers were the numbers. So, Geary. He has struggled for weeks, fell behind in the count, had to throw a strike, got the ball up, RBI single to left. "If the ball was down a little bit, it might be a groundball double play," Geary said. But it wasn't, and it wasn't.

So, 3-2. The Eaton/Geary switch was not the fatal decision, only the first domino. As Manuel said, "That was a little part of it. At the same time, we still had a chance to get [Craig] Monroe out."

Again, we will do this in ever-loving detail. Manuel removed Geary and brought in Mike Zagurski to face Curtis Granderson. Tigers manager Jim Leyland countered with pinch-hitter Omar Infante. It was that kind of game, the kind of move-countermove game that forced Leyland to use pitcher Mike Maroth as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, and would have forced the Phillies to do the same thing if they had been able to extend the game in the bottom of the ninth by two more batters.

Anyway, Zagurski got Infante to ground out. Next was Placido Polanco. Manuel countered with Yoel Hernandez. The Phils wanted no parts of Polanco, who is hitting .414 with runners in scoring position. Hernandez pitched carefully, fell behind and intentionally walked Polanco. That brought the matchup Manuel wanted: righty Hernandez against Monroe, who was hitting only .203 against righties (and .345 against lefties).

So, of course, Monroe singled in two runs and Magglio Ordonez followed with a two-run double.

Snake eyes.

Things unraveled from there, to put it kindly. Before the game was over, Manuel, catcher Carlos Ruiz and third-base coach Steve Smith would all be ejected. Before that, the remnants of a sellout crowd were treated to a really heartwarming Philadelphia moment, the opportunity to barbecue Manuel as he again walked to the mound, this time to wave in fan favorite Jose Mesa from the bullpen. Good times.

And here is the lesson: that even as the back end of the bullpen has done very well in the absence of closer Brett Myers, the trickle-down is another matter entirely. Or, as Manuel said, "The seventh inning kind of did us in."

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Send e-mail to hofmanr@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

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