Sep 302010

Phillies RHP Joe Blanton

September 30 Philadelphia Daily News:

“During his daily question-and-answer session with reporters, Charlie Manuel was asked whether he thought about the impact of his decision-making in the waning days of the regular season. For the second straight night, the veteran manager announced a lineup that looked straight out of the Grapefruit League, with reserves like Ben Francisco and John Mayberry in spots normally reserved for former All-Stars like Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez. And with the Phillies scheduled to travel to Atlanta this weekend for a series against one of three teams locked in a tight race for the final two postseason spots, their ability to put up a fight could have some bearing on who joins them in the playoffs.

“That’ll make you think,” Manuel said. “But at the same time, I don’t know what you do about it.”

What the Phillies did last night was render the discussion moot, at least for the time being. Led by Francisco’s two home runs and Mayberry’s three-run shot, not to mention a strong performance by righthander Joe Blanton, the Phil-ins cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Nationals.

The Phillies, who on Monday night clinched their fourth straight National League East title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, have shifted into playoff-planning mode. Nevertheless, with a 95-64 record, they still have some accolades they can achieve.

Three more wins would give them the third-best finish in the modern history of the team, trailing only the 101-61 marks posted by the 1976 and 1977 teams. The 1993 Phils, who finished 97-65 en route to a World Series berth, currently own that distinction.

Safe to say, that isn’t Manuel’s chief goal. Instead, he wants to make sure he gets his regulars some well-deserved rest while also getting potential playoff reserves some much-needed playing time.

The situation is summed up perfectly in the case of Francisco. Before the clincher on Monday, he hadn’t started a game since Sept. 5 and hadn’t had an at-bat since Sept. 19. Still, the Phillies would love to have him sharp for the postseason. The righthanded-hitting outfielder appeared in 11 of the Phillies’ 15 postseason games last season, two of them as a designated hitter in the World Series, and finished 0-for-11 with one walk and two strikeouts.

Francisco logged a fair amount of playing time down the stretch last season, with 44 September at-bats before the Phillies clinched the division title. He then started three of their final four games of the season, when the team was preparing for the playoffs.

This year, Francisco logged just 10 at-bats in September before the clincher. As one of the Phillies‘ primary righthanded pinch-hitting options – he has gone 10-for-37 with two doubles, five RBI and five walks in that role this season – he could see some big at-bats in the postseason.”

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