Inside the Phillies: Manager Charlie Manuel not at his best in Sunday's doubleheader loss to Tampa Bay Rays

Posted: June 26, 2012

It was a #badloss, and the line of questioning afterward appealed to Charlie Manuel about as much as his late-inning bullpen bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Already grumpy after watching Antonio Bastardo turn seven shutout innings from Cole Hamels into a 3-1 deficit in the top of the eighth inning, Manuel also had to answer for his own handling of the bench Sunday as the Phillies tried to rally in the bottom of the eighth in the first game of a doubleheader.

"You guys ought to sit in the dugout with me and give me all the scenarios if you don't think I know them," the manager told reporters, mixing his Southern drawl with biting sarcasm. "We don't know how to manage the game. Really, I think you guys ought to sit down there with us or tweet us or something."

The Phillies, the bullpen, and the manager's moves all came up short in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader.

The day grew longer but no better for Manuel and the Phillies when lefthander Cliff Lee's streak of winless starts reached a dirty dozen in the second game, a 7-3 Rays victory.

"It's hard for me to explain," Manuel said when asked about Lee's 0-4 record and rising ERA.

Manuel was asked to explain a lot after the first game, including why he removed Hamels after seven innings and 111 pitches.

Hamels had not thrown more than 114 pitches this season, and Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee have always been cautious about letting the lefty extend into the 120-pitch range. It's a pitch count Hamels has reached only seven times in his career with the last time being April 2011.

Seven shutout innings should be enough and would have been enough most nights a year ago, but with this season just days from its midpoint, Manuel and Dubee still are searching for a reliable eighth-inning reliever.

Bastardo held that role for most of last season, but command issues have dogged him this year, driving up his pitch counts and constantly forcing him into trouble. He needed 29 pitches to get through an adventurous eighth inning with a lead still intact Saturday, but Manuel decided the lefty was his best option again Sunday.

Two Bastardo walks and a Carlos Pena home run later, Manuel probably agreed with the second-guessers that he did not make the right decision. If you thought Manuel had a much better option, you've obviously been watching the U.S. Olympic track trials rather than the last-place Phillies.

"That's our eighth-inning guy, and you should be able to throw," Manuel said. "You should be able to throw three days in a row. . . . Twenty-nine pitches would be a whole lot of pitches on the second day or the third day, especially. You wouldn't be able to use him on the fourth day. If we're going to use him like that in the eighth inning, he has to be able to throw two or three days in a row."

Manuel's contribution to the Phillies' 39th defeat of the season came in the bottom of the inning, although he vehemently disagreed.

After the Phillies scored to close the deficit to a single run, John Mayberry Jr. struck out with runners at first and third for the second out of the inning.

That's where the chess match between Manuel and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon began.

Manuel, hoping to re-create a matchup with hard-throwing Rays lefthander Jake McGee that led to a dramatic walk-off home run Saturday, sent Jim Thome to the plate as a pinch-hitter.

Maddon left Burke Badenhop in the game, but only because he wanted the righthander to intentionally walk Thome, a risky move that placed the go-ahead run at second base.

The ball went back into Manuel's court when Maddon called on the lefty McGee to face the switch-hitting Michael Martinez. Manuel had the option to pinch-hit with the lefthanded-hitting Juan Pierre or the lefthanded-hitting Mike Fontenot.

Pierre pinch-ran for Thome, Fontenot remained on the bench, and Martinez hit a weak fly ball to right field for the final out of the inning.

I tweeted beforehand that Pierre should have batted for Martinez rather than run for Thome. #firstguessing

"I left Martinez in there because he was a righthanded hitter," Manuel said. "I know Juan Pierre hits lefthanded pitchers pretty good, but this guy is throwing 95 to 98 to 100 m.p.h., and I had Fontenot and I had Pierre and I had [Brian] Schneider, and I know exactly what I had. I figured Martinez is a righthanded hitter, and he's been playing the most. Pierre, if you go back and look, he hasn't done real good on hard-throwing lefthanders."

Still, the best option was Pierre, a career .303 hitter against lefthanded pitching before Game 2. He wasn't likely to drive the ball off McGee the way Thome did the day before, but he was far more likely to get a hit than Martinez, who is 3 for 23 against lefties this season and 12 for 73 in his career.

Pierre, by the way, has a hit in two career at-bats against McGee. Martinez is 0 for 2 against the Rays lefthander.

Fontenot, even though he is 0 for 8 against lefties this season, was a better option, too, because he is a better hitter than Martinez.

#justmyopinioncharlie


Contact Bob Brookover

at bbrookover@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @brookob.

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