Charlie Manuel exhausted his bench to get the lead and put the game in the hands of his bullpen. For the second time on this trip, the age-old strategy of playing to win on the road worked according to plan.
The luxury of having a lights-out 'pen and a deep bench (perhaps the two greatest strengths of the young season) has allowed Manuel to pull out all the stops late in ballgames. There’s no better example than last night, as the Phils won a high scoring footrace to the ninth inning, putting it in the hands of stopper Brad Lidge to seal the deal in a 7-5 win. And in addition to Pat Burrell, who we’ll get to momentarily, it also showcased the virtues of a versatile bench, where someone like Eric Bruntlett can man multiple positions in an emergency.
The jackpot move was lifting Greg Dobbs for Burrell to start the eighth. True to form, it was another patient Burrell at bat capped by a nice, easy swing on a 3-2 fastball. Burrell rocked it like it was April 2008. In the bottom half of the inning, Manuel lifts Burrell for So Taguchi, who tracks down a ball tight to the line. A minor point, but it seemed like every move worked in their favor.
The Phils and Astros sprayed 26 hits all over the place in a back-and-forth contest that could have gone to anyone really. Roy Oswalt and Kyle Kendrick didn’t have it, but it was also a night of good hits and just as many lucky ones. The game featured lots of opposite field action, including Ryan Howard’s bomb to left field, part of a three-for-five night. Astros' pitching relentlessly tried to get him to chase outside; one couldn’t help but notice that Howard was aware of that and saw it all the way. Oswalt’s offering would have been an out pitch against Howard two days ago.