"You think of our starters and how good they are, but when you are losing a game in the seventh inning, more than likely you've got to try to win it," Manuel said. "If you are losing, you've got to catch up . . . In the seventh inning, you are in an out-elimination process, and you are nine outs away from losing the game. So you've got to catch up. Two outs and nobody on or even two outs and one man on is different, depending on how you feel about your bullpen, but I've always tried to win the game."
So even if Roy Halladay has held an opposing lineup to two runs in six innings, if the Phillies are trailing 2-0 with the pitcher's spot up and a runner in scoring position in the seventh, there is a good chance Halladay isn't going to end up pitching seven innings. Which means Manuel is going to need nine outs from his bullpen. Which, for the last few weeks, has been a risky proposition.
While Ryan Madson has remained solid, carrying 12 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings into last night's game, the top three options in front of the closer have been well short of dominant since the start of September. Setup man Antonio Bastardo had allowed at least one run in three of his last five outings, had allowed at least two baserunners in four of his last five, and had walked five while striking out one during that five-appearance stretch.
Yesterday, pitching coach Rich Dubee downplayed concern about the 26-year-old lefty, who allowed just eight earned runs and 38 walks and hits with 66 strikeouts in his first 53 1/3 innings this season. He did the same when asked about rookie righty Mike Stutes, who has allowed 16 runs, 31 hits, 11 walks and five home runs with 23 strikeouts in his last 28 innings after the 25-year-old started the season with eight runs, 17 hits, 15 walks and two home runs with 30 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.
"Where has our bullpen been all year?" Dubee said about a unit that was among the best in the National League for the first 5 months. "Then what are you worried about? If you don't think you are going to hit a rut once in a while, you're crazy. It's baseball."
Dubee insisted the timing of that rut - 2 weeks before the start of the postseason - does not concern him. He said he thinks the adrenaline of the postseason will compensate for the grind of the long season. Then, he said, you will see the Bastardo who spent 5 months dominating NL hitters and the Stutes who forced his way into a high-profile role with his early success.
"Cole Hamels was tired in 2008," Dubee said. "Once the postseason got here, he didn't look very tired to me. When you get through that [bullpen] door, there's something about the adrenaline of being in the postseason where tired goes out the window."
Whatever happens down the stretch, the Phillies seem poised to enter the postseason with Madson, Bastardo, Stutes and former closer Brad Lidge as their top four late-inning options. Manuel said Vance Worley will get some relief appearances before the end of the season and could end up in the mix. But he also indicated that Joe Blanton is a longshot to contribute after missing most of the season with an elbow injury, and that recent call-ups Justin De Fratus and Joe Savery will be hard-pressed to earn a role.
Which means what you see is what you are likely to get. Manuel said yesterday that he likely will keep 10 pitchers on the postseason roster, allowing for eight regulars and seven bench players. Counting the aforementioned four relievers, plus the four starters and Worley, the Phillies would have room for one more arm, with righties Kyle Kendrick and David Herndon both having spent the majority of the season on the big-league roster.
"What are we going to do, bring a guy in and let him throw one or two innings and put him on the roster?" Manuel said. "I don't know. I don't think that."
Ryan Howard, who has not played since Saturday, had a cortisone shot to combat bursitis in his left foot yesterday and is expected to be sidelined until at least Thursday . . . Rich Dubee and Charlie Manuel both said they have no problem starting lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in back-to-back postseason games. The Phillies have not announced a starter for Game 1, although it likely will come down to either Roy Halladay or Lee.