A night of crooked numbers featured 16 hits, three homers, 11 runs and a double steal by a first-time Phillies lineup. Here’s hoping the lineup card was written in ink, not pencil.
Remember the days when lineup debate was a day by day occurrence on Beerleaguer? Daily arguments over whether Bobby Abreu should lead off, who would protect Ryan Howard best and whether to drop Jimmy Rollins in the order?
This season, lineup debate has gone out of fashion, for several reasons. Certain players, like Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz and Greg Dobbs have generated adequate or better production from their assignments. Rollins has hit too many homers to make a fuss over his walks. Chase Utley, who hasn’t slumped once all season, has become a prototype for what a three-hitter should be. He makes hitting look easy. He makes everything look easy.
There’s another reason no one talks about the lineup anymore. Charlie Manuel has used more combinations than in previous seasons. Manuel, who must know his time is up if he fails to make the playoffs, is setting his lineup like a man free of his shackles. For fans, it’s less mundane that way. We haven’t been allowed enough time to get impatient with a certain combination, the way we used to with David Bell, Mike Lieberthal and all the other dry rot. Over the past few weeks, Manuel has settled on a nice routine of hitting Rowand fifth behind Howard and giving more players chances to replace Pat Burrell, sometimes batting them as high as second.
Last night, several readers called the new "Bourn 2, Vic 6" lineup the best Manuel has fielded all season. It’s difficult to argue with that after a dynamic 11-4 thrashing, which featured a steady combination of speed, power and clutch hitting. Manuel said before the game he liked the idea of inserting the switch-hitting Victorino lower to make it harder for opposing managers to maneuver their bullpen, and I know what he means. The Reds didn’t have a good answer for it. The only time I felt there was a true mismatch was when Greg Dobbs faced the left-hander – and he got a hit anyway.
Top to bottom, this is a lineup of hitters all meeting or exceeding expectations. When was the last time you could say that?
Today's news: The Phillies are expected to promote left-hander J.A. Happ to start Saturday's game against the Mets, according to Marcus Hayes of the Daily News. The team is also considering starting J.D. Durbin Thursday against the Reds and pushing Adam Eaton's start to Friday. Lastly, Brett Myers and Tom Gordon are now expected to return after the All-Star break. According to Hayes, Myers' bullpen session did not go as well as hoped yesterday. Hayes really covered all the bases this morning. [Link]