Manuel's decision to let Blanton hit backfires in Phillies' loss to Cardinals

Associated Press
Associated Press
Posted: July 22, 2010

ST. LOUIS - Talk about the manager's decision to let the pitcher hit when a rare scoring opportunity presented itself later in the game.

Talk about Joe Blanton's tendency to unravel later in games or how catcher Carlos Ruiz' throwing error in the eighth helped seal another dismal loss.

Understand, though, that none of that would have mattered if the Phillies' offense hadn't once again been marked absent in a 5-1 Cardinals' win at Busch Stadium. Four hits. Zip in five opportunities with runners in scoring position.

"What can I say?" said manager Charlie Manuel, clearly at a loss once again. "We come out here about every day and we do the same thing. We don't hit and we don't score runs.

"I've been giving everybody in that locker room a chance, I feel like. Hey, if you can hit, please do. What the hell? That's kind of how I look at it. That's not taking no shot at one guy. That's covering a lot of territory."

The Phillies have lost six of seven since the All-Star break. The only saving grace last night was that the Braves lost, too, so the Phils remain a season-worst seven games out of first.

Yeah, that's looking for silver linings.

Yeah, it has come to that.

So, once again working without a net, the game turned on Manuel's call to let Blanton hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh and the score tied at one.

It backfired. Not only did Blanton go down swinging on three pitches. Matt Holliday blasted the first pitch he threw in the bottom of the inning into the leftfield grandstands to put St. Louis ahead.

"You've got to make it and you've got to make it one way or the other. Tough call? Hell, no. Nothing tough about it. What you do is what you do," Manuel said.

He had stacked his lineup with righthanded bats against Cardinals lefthander Jaime Garcia, which meant he had only Wilson Valdez to hit from the right side. He might have been gun-shy about going to a bullpen that has been ineffective recently, although he obviously wasn't going to admit that out loud. And Blanton had pitched well to that point.

Except nothing is going right for the Phillies these days. So, naturally, Holliday's second homer in as many nights gave St. Louis the lead. And, naturally, Blanton gave up two hits sandwiched around Ruiz throwing the ball away on a sacrifice attempt. And, naturally, all three runners scored.

Blanton conceded that letting him hit could be second-guessed.

"It's Charlie's decision," he said. "Obviously, I wanted to stay in the game. It's a tough call. I didn't have very many pitches. At the same time, it's a big decision at the plate right there."

As it turned out, a Cardinals error allowed Shane Victorino to reach second with one out in the top of the eighth. And he was stranded at third.

It isn't going to get any easier, either. Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals this afternoon.

Phillers

Ryan Howard's home run in the fifth was the 244th bomb of his career, moving him past Chuck Klein and into fourth place on the club's all-time list. It's possible that Howard could also go ahead of Pat Burrell (251) and Del Ennis (259) before the end of the season. The all-time franchise leader, of course, is Mike Schmidt (548) . . . The start of the game was delayed 25 minutes by a fierce thunderstorm that hit just as the Phillies were scheduled to begin batting practice . . .

Charlie Manuel continues to insist he isn't platooning in leftfield, but Ben Francisco started for the eighth time in the last nine games that the Phillies have faced a lefty . . . The manager also batted Placido Polanco in the leadoff spot and dropped slumping Jimmy Rollins to sixth . . . Righthander Nelson Figueroa, who was designated for assignment July 13 when Chad Durbin was activated from the disabled list, was claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros yesterday.

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