Charlie Manuel frequently makes poor strategic decisions. The 11-million dollar scoreboard in left field would probably do a similar job. We guarantee a post analyzing Manuel's decisions for every Phillies game. Please click on our aliases below to email us.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
With the score tied at 2, Gonzalez went to SET-UP MAN Jonny Venters, a devastating lefty. After retiring Freddy Galvis to start the inning, PH John Mayberry reached on a double. This brought Rollins to the plate, who then singled softly to left, advancing Mayberry to third.
There are now runners on first and third with only one out, with RHBs Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence all due up for the Phillies. All three of these batters have significantly better numbers against left-handed pitching than right. Fredi Gonzalez still had CLOSER Craig Kimbrel available to face these batters.
There's zero reason to leave Venters in the game after he allows consecutive hits to RHBs. Gonzalez is clearly hoping for a double play off the bat of Polanco (this situation is exactly why Polanco should not be batting second -- I was prepared to demolish my remote control had Polanco GIDP there) or a strikeout.
Let's say Venters does get a double-play off Polanco. Kimbrel is going to pitch to the next batter (in the 9th inning) anyway in that scenario, regardless of what the Braves do in the bottom of the 8th inning.
Let's say Venters strikes out Polanco, or otherwise retires him without scoring the run from third. Then you have Shane Victorino, who is so much better batting right-handed than lefty that I'm not sure they are the same person. Why wouldn't you bring in Kimbrel -- who is better than Venters, fresher than Venters, and less left-handed than Venters -- to completely kill the inning? And, since it's so obvious that Kimbrel needs to turn Victorino around, then it should be just as obvious to bring him into the game to face RHB Polanco.
Of course, Gonzalez stuck with Venters because the scoreboard said INNING 8, and it backfired. Venters actually did strike out Polanco, but not without throwing a wild pitch to score the go-ahead run from Mayberry.
This is where it gets crazy: Kris Medlen (RHP) was warming in the bullpen at this point, yet he still allowed the lefty to face RHB Victorino. Venters was promptly nailed by a line drive off Victorino's bat, which would have scored Rollins from third had Polanco's K not scored the run. Now, there are 2 outs, with runners on first and third, and the score 3-2, with RHB Hunter Pence coming to the plate.
Gonzalez still left Venters in the game for god-knows-what, and Pence singled home the fourth run of the game. With Ty Wigginton coming to the plate now -- a worse hitter than Victorino and Pence, in a lower-leverage situation -- then Gonzalez removed Venters for the righty-righty matchup. Medlen struck out Wigginton.
Awful job by Gonzalez, but the blame will go to Venters, because....he's the eighth inning guy.
Aside from batting Polanco second, which nearly cost the team the game, Manuel played with fire in the bottom of the 8th inning. Chad Qualls started the 8th inning to face lefties Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann, despite the fact that Freeman and McCann are significantly worse against LHPs. Joe Savery was available to exploit the lefty-lefty matchups, but Manuel went with the RHP. Why? Because it was the 8th inning.
Qualls allowed Freeman to reach on a single, so McCann represented the tying run, facing the RHP Qualls. If you can't trust Savery to pitch to two lefties with a 2-run lead to start an inning, then he should be sent to Lehigh immediately so Dom Brown's corpse can be promoted. Honestly, there's no more obvious situation to use Savery to face the lefties, and then bring in Qualls to face the RHPs that follow.
Manuel was luckier than Gonzalez last night -- Qualls got McCann to ground into a double play, ending any real chance of a Braves' comeback.
The Phils are now only 2.5 games behind first place, and they look to make up more ground tonight as Roy Halladay faces RHP Tommy Hanson at 7:10 pm.