Question: If your new buddy Charlie Manuel is so smart, what on earth was he thinking tonight?
Answer: Manuel? Never heard of him.
Fifteen hours after my post crediting manager Charlie Manuel for steering his squad back into the playoff race, and just five hours after he used the bullpen effectively to sink the Nationals 2-1, he pulls off a bullpen stunt I can’t explain.
Number one: I know it's the Mighty MadUrWag and all, but Ryan Madson, Ugueth Urbina and Billy Wagner should be unavailable. That’s number one. Using them in Game 2 of today's day-night double dip meant working all three of them three times in 24 hours, and twice in five hours. Forget it!
Second, with all the funky bodies, why pull a fresh Aaron Fultz after the sixth, especially with the pitchers’ spot due to lead off the bottom of the seventh? Fultz’s sixth wasn't perfect, but he didn't surrender any runs, and by all accounts, the left-hander has done enough this season to earn a little trust beyond a spot inning. Instead, Cormier relieved Fultz in the top half of the seventh.
In the bottom half, the door was open for a dynamic pinch hit opportunity! Here were the choices: Kenny Lofton, Tomas Perez, Endy Chavez, Mike Lieberthal or Ramon Martinez. Who would you chose? Manuel chose Chavez. Chavez struck out.
But that’s a small point.
Here’s the bigger issue. Pinch-hitting for Cormier meant there were five pitchers remaining to hold the 4-3 lead. They were: Madson (pitched twice in last 24 hours), Urbina (pitched twice in last 24 hours), Wagner (pitched twice in last 24 hours), Geoff Geary and Eude Brito, who has yet to pitch in the big leagues.
Unless you go with a dead arm, Manuel backed himself into a corner to finish the game with two innings of Geary and Brito.
Manuel went with the rubber-armed Urbina, and right away - even before the first pitch was tossed - I could tell he wasn’t fresh. The Nationals hit him hard, taking a 5-4 lead in a two-run eighth.
The bottom line: there were much better options, including handing a bat to Cormier, who had thrown just eight quick pitches in the top half of the seventh. Chavez, Cormier, is there much of a difference?
Almost as quickly as the Phils took command of the wild card lead, they are in danger of losing it (Houston game still in progress at press time).
And just as quickly as Charlie Manuel was starting to look pretty good, I'm scratching my head again.