“This is the tightrope the Phillies are walking each steamy summer night.
Charlie Manuel’s starting pitcher, Joe Blanton, was pitching phenomenally into the seventh inning. But when the Phillies’ scoring chances are few and far between, the bases loaded with two outs represents a gigantic opportunity.
Manuel chose to leave Blanton in to hit. He struck out on three pitches. When he took the mound in the seventh, the first pitch he threw to Matt Holliday was lined into the left-field stands at Busch Stadium.
So it goes.
St. Louis won its eighth straight, 5-1, and sent the Phillies further into their tailspin. They have now dropped six of their first seven games to begin the second half, and remain seven behind the first-place Braves.
“That’s not the team we are,” centerfielder Shane Victorino said.
So who are they?
“I don’t know,” Victorino said. “We’re a better team than that. We’re not showing it.”
This game turned on Manuel’s seventh-inning decision. The manager maintained because there were two outs, he left Blanton in to hit. If there was one out, he would have used Wilson Valdez.
“Two-out hits are hard to get,” Manuel said. “The percentages were definitely not good for us.” But the percentages could have been better with a position player hitting instead of Blanton.
“He’s a great manager,” Blanton said. “He goes off feel. It’s a tough call. I didn’t have very many pitches. But it’s a big situation at the plate right there.”
Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia has been dominant against everyone, but specifically against lefthanded batters in 2010. Manuel had five bench players Wednesday, four of whom batted lefthanded. Valdez was Manuel’s lone righthanded bat on the bench.
Still, there is no reason to think those lefthanded position players would have been a worse option than Blanton, who was hitting .161 against anyone when he stepped to the plate in the seventh.
Plus, Blanton, who had allowed just one run and four hits to the Cardinals in the first six innings, has been terrible after the sixth inning this season. There is no one reason, Blanton said, his ERA after the sixth inning is 17.18.
That had to enter Manuel’s mind. Yet no one was warming up in the bullpen, and when catcher Carlos Ruiz walked to load the bases, up stepped Blanton.”