Friday, April 25, 2008

Phillies Hang on for Win over Pirates

Elements of the Phillies' 6-5 win of Pittsburgh indicate even more that maybe Charlie Manuel is just still learning. His decisions are not always among the most consistent that one will have the pleasure of encountering, but sometimes among the myriad illogical-seeming choices, some will arrive that actually seem to work quite well. Since Ryan Howard has for some reason been feeling obligated to fill the "Pat Burrell" role on the team in the wake of Pat Burrell's decision to fill the "good player" role, Charlie Manuel has benched him and allowed Chase Utley to play first, with newcomer Brad Harman taking his place at second.

In fact, the whole lineup had an experimental feel this time. If indeed Manuel was shaking up the batting order in an attempt to create some production (as opposed to because he received an important message from his magic eight ball), it was a sucessful experiment.

Harman delivered his first Major League RBI on a double. Jayson Werth continued to draw a sharp contrast with the "Jayson Werthless" we sometimes encountered last year, with an RBI double of his own and a solo home run.

Chis Coste was hitting fifth, and was arguably the star of the game with his 3 RBI on as many hits. It's true that Coste is a newish player in his mid-30s, and that this makes him as much of a gamble in a game like baseball as it does a Cinderella story, and it's true that as a catcher in his thirties he probably shouldn't be played every day -- but it would be foolish not to recognize that he's been incredibly hot at the plate lately. The impressive consistency of Coste's performances since he came up have been slightly overshadowed by the impressiveness of the fact that he finally came up in the first place. At this point, though, Charlie Manuel would have to be crazy not to take the .406 average that he has right now to the bank for all it's worth (whatever that might be).

What makes this game especially memorable, though, is Manuel's decision to remove starter Adam Eaton in th fourth after he had allowed Pittsburgh to recover half of the six-run lead the Phillies had accumulated. It has been a long time since it has seemed like a good idea to surrendur two thirds of a Philadelphia Phillies game to the bullpen, but this year's staff hae performed well enough to make doubting the conventional wisdom quite reasonable. Such a conclusion seemed erroneous in the fifth as Chad Durbin allowed the Phillies' lead to be diminished to a single run, but Charlie Manuel's gambit eventually paid off: the rest of the bullpen shut out Pittsburgh for the rest of the game, and Philadelphia took home a 6-5 win. Charlie Manuel's managerial decisions may seem odd. They may even come off as random or novelty moves -- but when they pay off, it feels sweet.

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