Manuel's choice of Oswalt backfires

Posted: October 21, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - The managerial chess match started in the fifth inning and ended with the Phillies' Charlie Manuel turning to one of his prized starters in the bottom of the ninth inning.

That final move backfired, and now the Phillies are one loss away from losing their two-year title as National League kings.

San Francisco's Juan Uribe, one of three position players inserted by Giants manager Bruce Bochy during the game, sent the raucous crowd at AT&T Park home in a celebratory mood when he lifted a pitch from Roy Oswalt into left field for a sacrifice fly that gave the home team a 6-5 victory.

Here's a look at some of the moves and other decisions that impacted the Phillies' Game 4 loss:

Early hooks. Managers do not manage the same in the postseason, and all sorts of evidence to that effect presented itself in this game.

The first clue came in the fifth inning when both the Giants' Bruce Bochy and Manuel went with the early hooks to turn this into a bullpen battle.

The approach is curious because both Bochy and Manuel showed confidence in sending their No. 4 starters to the mound, but then yanked on their short leashes in the fifth.

Bochy lifted rookie lefthander Madison Bumgarner even though he still had a 2-1 lead with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. The manager brought in righthander Santiago Casilla to pitch to Placido Polanco and then watched things unravel.

Polanco, jumping on a hanging breaking ball, doubled into left-center field, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. After being ordered to intentionally walk Ryan Howard, Casilla hit Jayson Werth to load the bases and then allowed Polanco to score on a wild pitch, making it 4-2.

In the bottom of the inning, Manuel exercised the same quick hook as Bochy, removing righthander Joe Blanton with two outs after he surrendered an RBI single to Aubrey Huff.

In retrospect, Manuel waited one batter too long to lift Blanton. The manager had lefthander Antonio Bastardo warming in the bullpen, but he did not give him a chance to face the lefthanded-hitting Huff, who made the Phillies' manager pay with his RBI single.

Manuel called on righthander Jose Contreras, who struck out Buster Posey for the final out of the inning, but only after the Phillies' two-run lead was cut to one.

The bigger problem for Manuel was that he could get only one out from Contreras before lifting him for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

Manuel turned to righthander Chad Durbin to protect the one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, and he could not do it. The Phillies reliever issued a leadoff walk to Pat "The Eye" Burrell, and the unstoppable Cody Ross followed with a broken-bat double down the left-field line.

The previously benched Pablo Sandoval lined a two-run double into left-center field to give the Giants the lead. Give Durbin credit for escaping without further damage, but the righthander's career postseason ERA now stands at 6.30 in 15 appearances.

Manuel's fatal decision came when he turned to Oswalt instead of closer Brad Lidge in the ninth. In his second career postseason relief appearance, Oswalt could not duplicate his dominance, allowing one-out singles to Huff and Posey before Uribe delivered his game-winning sacrifice fly.

A hitting streak. The Phillies had not put together consecutive hits since Game 1 of their division series against the Reds and had just four hits and zero runs through their first 13 innings at AT&T Park.

That all changed in the fifth inning of this game.

The Phillies, as they have through most of this series, had been patient, driving up rookie lefthander Madison Bumgarner's pitch count through four innings without doing any damage.

And then Ben Francisco, inserted in Manuel's lineup in place of the struggling Raul Ibanez, became the first Phillies hitter to open an inning with a hit since Oswalt in the bottom of the seventh of Game 2.

Francisco's leadoff single was followed by a Carlos Ruiz single, a Blanton sacrifice bunt, consecutive singles by Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, and a two-run double by Placido Polanco.

Righty vs. righty. If you were wondering why Manuel did not pinch-hit Ibanez for Francisco after Werth's game-tying double and Jimmy Rollins' pop-up in the eighth inning, the reason was lefthander Jeremy Affeldt.

Manuel decided he'd rather have Francisco face righthander Sergio Romo. It did not work out because Romo struck out both Francisco and Carlos Ruiz to end the inning.

That's a balk. The top of the second inning ended when Rollins was caught stealing second base after breaking off first before Bumgarner threw home. Rollins was thrown out at second base by first baseman Huff, and before the play was completed, Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes was engaged in an animated discussion with first-base umpire Jeff Nelson.

As soon as Rollins was tagged by shortstop Edgar Renteria, he also looked back at the umpire in protest.

Lopes and Rollins felt as if Bumgarner had balked. Nelson, after watching a replay, would have a difficult time explaining why it was not a balk. Of course, the umpires no longer have to explain anything because their boss, Frank Robinson, a chronic complainer when he managed, told them they no longer have to speak with the media.

Besides, there is probably nobody involved in baseball who has a better idea of what a balk is than Lopes, a master base stealer and graduate student of the running arts.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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