Reliable scribe Todd Zolecki writes Charlie Manuel “sounded like a man who is leaning toward Cole Hamels in Game 7” when he spoke with the media yesterday. It’s the right move.
After the Phillies lost Game 4, Manuel took heat for starting Joe Blanton instead of playing the Yankees’ game by shortening the rotation and starting Cliff Lee on three-days rest. Now, after watching A.J. Burnett fail to make it out of the third inning, the focus has shifted toward Joe Girardi and his decision to start 37-year-old Andy Pettitte on short rest following a good, but not great, start in Game 3. Meanwhile, it sets up the standard second guess of Manuel, only to watch it work out in the end. This happened as recently as the Division Series. Believing the skipper pushed the panic button prematurely in Game 2 by using J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton from the pen, critics raged that Cholly had backed himself into a corner, forced to use Pedro Martinez in sub-freezing conditions in Game 3. Magically – or maybe not – it all worked out; Game 3 was postponed, J.A. Happ pitched Game 3 and Cliff Lee made his second of four quality starts in Game 4, setting up the epic, ninth-inning comeback.
Speaking of Happ, the rookie of the year candidate may be in the mix for Game 7 along with Hamels. Here’s a case where everything that’s gone wrong with Hamels, mentally, may actually help detract from the magnitude of a Game 7 in the Bronx. Hamels’ last quality start came Sept. 17 (although it isn’t necessary to go that deep with all hands on deck in a Game 7), but compare that with Happ, whose last quality start came eons ago on Aug. 27 and had a worse game in the postseason (3 IP, 5 H, 2 BB) than any of Hamels’ clunkers. In Happ’s defense, conditions were severe, but on Thursday, they may not be that much better.
But I digress. Gotta go one game at a time, which has been Manuel’s successful mantra all postseason.