All the time I’ve written about how the Phillies need to “play their game” to beat the Rays in the World Series. Well, last night was a prime example of that philosophy. Charlie Manuel’s conservative, stay-the-course mantra held water yet again.
First, the pitching formula: Cole Hamels for seven, Ryan Madson in the eighth, Brad Lidge in the ninth.
Second, Manuel eschewed using a pinch hitter, only bringing in Eric Bruntlett to substitute Pat Burrell in left field. Bruntlett popped out with two on and two out in the top of the ninth.
And signs that the Phils were going to play aggressive actually backfired. Chase Utley showed bunt to start his first-inning at bat. That failed. Later in the at bat he hit the two-run home run to start the scoring. Moreover, Shane Victorino decided to test the rifle arm of BJ Upton on a shallow fly ball. That plan resulted in the old F8-2 double play.
That’s not all to say the Phils should continue to play conservatively. But in the first game of the World Series, sticking to your guns and playing the game you know you can play worked. With the bright lights and global attention, it made more sense to play the familiar game. But now, Manuel should know the faults with the conservative approach:
Pinch hitting is key. Why not pinch hit Bruntlett for Greg Dobbs in that spot? Or why not take Chris Coste (or Pedro Feliz) out for Dobbs in the eighth against Grant Balfour, a fastball-throwing righty? Sometimes you have to risk losing your backup catcher, or you defensive replacement, to get another run. That’s not aggression, it’s intelligence.