On Sunday, desperate to score some runs, Manuel pinch-hit for starting pitcher Vance Worley with one out in the seventh inning and runners on second and third.
"He had another inning left in him, probably," Manuel said of Worley, who had allowed just a solo home run in six strong innings. "At the same time, I thought it was important for us to score some runs. I went for the runs."
They got the runs when Juan Pierre stroked a two-run single, but they sacrificed Worley so that Laynce Nix could ground out weakly to second. Nix was the best lefthanded hitter available because, desperate to score some runs, Manuel had started Jim Thome at first base.
And then, because the 40-year-old Thome hasn't played much there, Manuel replaced him to start the seventh inning. That's why it was Ty Wigginton who failed to catch a throw from catcher Brian Schneider, an error that started the Pirates comeback.
Because Chad Qualls was unavailable due to a sore heel, Manuel was forced to use Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo in the eighth. They combined to allow the game-tying run. And because the game was tied going into the ninth, Manuel couldn't bring in his $50 million closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Instead, David Herndon came in and promptly gave up a leadoff double.
These are the dominoes that fell, one after the other, to set up the game's defining moment. With a runner on third and two outs, the Pirates' best player came to the plate. Andrew McCutchen had been on base three times already.
This is the situation the intentional walk was designed for. Put McCutchen on and face second baseman Neil Walker, who hit one single in 10 at-bats in the series. But Walker is lefthanded, Herndon isn't that good against lefties, and the only lefthanded reliever remaining was Joe Savery, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues yet.
The other option would have been to walk McCutchen and Walker. The Pirates probably would have used Rod Barajas to pinch-hit with the bases loaded.
"I thought about walking McCutchen and I thought about walking Walker and loading the bases," Manuel said. "They've got Barajas left. I didn't want to load the bases, and I didn't want him facing the lefty."
It was not a shock when McCutchen launched a 3-2 pitch toward center field. It bounced off the wall, and the Phillies were 1-2.
Manuel didn't make a good decision and Herndon didn't get him off the hook, but the real problem is an offense that looks as if it's pushing a boulder uphill. Manuel has resorted to bunting more than he likes, with mixed results.
"We're definitely lacking power, considering what we had in the past," Manuel said. "We've got to play right. I don't want our guys to think we can't score. Sometimes when we bunt in certain situations, it sends a message. I'm here because I was an offensive guy. I'm a true believer you get better because of confidence, and the manager has to show that."
That was the real loss here, the chance to start off hot and get that confidence flowing. Freddy Galvis eventually will get some major-league hits, but he will play his first game at Citizens Bank Park on Monday with his 0-for-10 weekend on his mind. Jimmy Rollins went for 2 for 12. Thome and Nix each went 0 for 4. Wigginton had one hit.
"We've got guys that have been pretty good hitters," Manuel said. "We've got to get where we want to be. I believe we'll score runs. It's just a matter of getting a couple of guys hot. It takes a lineup."
It was quickly apparent how much the absence of Ryan Howard affects the whole operation. Even when he slumps, he looms over the game. Without him, and without Chase Utley, this lineup puts a lot less stress on the opposing pitcher.
But that doesn't mean the Phillies are doomed. The starting rotation is solid gold. And there are enough competent hitters on the team to score four or five runs a game. They did just that Sunday.
"Three games is no indication of how good we can be," Manuel said.
It was just a wasted opportunity to make things easy on themselves - and on their manager - by getting off to a strong start.
Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, email@example.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at philly.com/philabuster
Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan