Charlie Manuel’s handling of the pitching staff in Game 4 backfires

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel watches his team play the Cincinnati Reds in Game 3 of the MLB National League Division Series baseball playoffs in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 10, 2010. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

There were a plenty of Philly faith that wanted to see Roy Halladay take the mound in Game 4 of the NLCS, despite the fact that he would have been pitching on short rest. Instead, manager Charlie Manuel decided to hand the ball to Joe Blanton, who hadn’t started a game in over a month.

But even though the Giants beat the Phillies 6-5 in Game 4, the decision to start Blanton wasn’t Manuel’s costliest mistake on Wednesday night.

He’s no Halladay, Oswalt or Hamels, but Blanton is a fine starting pitcher who happens to have postseason experience. He’s not going to throw a perfect game, a no-hitter or even a shutout. But he’s more than serviceable and if you take a step back, you can understand Manuel’s thought process.

If Blanton limits the Giants to only a couple of runs..the offense eventually gets to rookie Madison Bumgarner…Phillies steal a win and then have Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels pitch on regular rest…everyone Wang Chung tonight.

And that’s exactly what happened. Sort of.

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Blanton to start Game 4 for Phillies – not Lee

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has decided to start Joe Blanton in Game 4 of the World Series instead of ace Cliff Lee on short rest.

What this means is that Lee won’t be available for a possible Game 7 because he’ll pitch Game 5 now. Considering Lee has never started on short rest in his career, Manuel may have had little choice but to pitch Blanton in Game 4.

Blanton started Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Rays in last year’s World Series and combined with four relievers on a five-hitter in a 10-2 Philadelphia win. So he has World Series experience and shouldn’t be fazed by the pressure, although he did allow four runs in six innings against the Dodgers in his only postseason start this season.

It’ll be interesting to see how New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi counters the move. There was talk that CC Sabathia would start Game 4, but Girardi may decide to save his ace to face Lee again in Game 5. Considering several Yankees (including Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez) have had success off Blanton in the past, Girardi might want to save Sabathia in order to go toe to toe with Lee.

The chess game begins…

Media Recations: World Series Game 2

– Gary Shelton writes that the Rays’ win shouldn’t surprise anyone. (St. Petersburg Times)

– Phil Sherdian notes that the Phillies are the definition of tight ball club. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

– Joe Posnanski writes that Rays’ manager Joe Maddon doesn’t do anything halfway. (Kansas City Star)

– Gregg Doyel questions what Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel does all game. (CBS Sports)

– Steve Henson has the story of a Rays fan who stands to win $25,000 if his team can win the World Series. (Yahoo! Sports)

It’s all about the pitching

Jonathan Papelbon“Momentum is always as strong as your starting pitcher is the next day.”
– Joe Maddon

Leave it to the well-read Rays manger to come up with such a profound statement. Chances are this saying is nailed up in his teams’ clubhouse alongside others from the likes of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Maddon’s right, and he’s used this pitching-first philosophy to propel his team into the ALCS.

If there’s one quality that ties each of the remaining four teams together, it’s that each of them can hit. They each have at least two big bats, lead-off men that can hit for average, and a bottom of the order that can consistently do some damage. When teams are this evenly matched at the plate, it’s often a single blunder on the part of a pitcher that can decide a game. As we’ve seen in the Division Series between the Angels and Red Sox, it comes down to the pitching. Both teams boasted fabulous rotations and excellent hitting, but it was the Red Sox middle relief and closer that really won the games.

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MLB Playoffs Quick Reads

– Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the Cubs are a tragedy of errors right now.

– Chris DeLuca of the Times notes that the Cubs aren’t the only ones in a slump – manager Lou Piniella is, too.

– Joey Johnston of the Tampa Tribune gushes over Rays’ rookie Evan Longoria’s cool after the third basemen hit two home runs in Game 1 of ALDS against the White Sox.

– Todd Zolecki of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that Phils manager Charlie Manuel has succeeded with juggling the club’s lineup so far against the Brewers in the NLDS.

– John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times likes the fire that Rays’ RP Grant Balfour shows, but also writes how the young pitcher invites trouble along with his success.

– Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer waxes poetically about Shane Victorino, the “little Philly” who came up with a huge grand slam against Brewers’ ace CC Sabathia in Game 2 of the NLDS.

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