By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
For all you wanna-be Major League managers in cyberspace who like to second-guess managers here’s your big chance to do so based on the Phillies 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday night at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Should Charlie Manuel have taken Roy Halladay out of the game?
Coming into the ninth inning, the Phillies had a 2-1 lead and Halladay (15-5) had struck out 12 while throwing 101 pitches and had retired 12 in a row. Under most circumstances, this is Halladay’s inning. Throughout the year, he has been his own best closer even when he has struggled to finish off games.
When Arizona’s Justin Upton and Miguel Montero reached him for a pair of singles, you were probably thinking Manuel would bring in Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson, who warming up in the bullpen, to close it out.
Knowing that Halladay has come through in situations like that all year long, Manuel stuck with his ace, who struck out Chris Young who bunted the ball foul with two strikes. But then Arizona first baseman Lyle Overbay crushed a Halladay pitch into the gap between center and right field driving home Upton and pinch runner Collin Cowgill for what turned out to be the winning runs.
“It was a poor pitch,” Halladay said. “The two hits (Overbay) had were on poor pitches. I left a curve well up and cutter on the plate. I feel like if we make the pitches we’re supposed to make, the results aren’t guaranteed, but this is a guy we’re not supposed to pitch around.
“It can be a little tougher to swallow in the ninth than if you can get blow out in the third inning. . . .It’s definitely feel like it’s your responsibility to finish out the game, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t make two good pitches.”
After the game, Manuel said he had no regrets about leaving Halladay in the game in that situation. He was going to go with his best pitcher win or lose, come hell or high water. Halladay finished the game with 14 strikeout, but allowed three runs on eight hits.
“It’s kind of his game isn’t, he’s my ace,” Manuel said. “If I was going to make a move, I would have it done it to start the inning. … That’s going to happen sometimes. That’s baseball, that’s the way it goes. A guy hits the ball in the right spot and they scored two runs and they ended up beating us. There’s never been a perfect pitcher, there’s never been a perfect player.”
In a real sense, it probably should never come down this if the Phillies had scored more runs. The only offense the Phillies mustered in this game was a two-run homerun by Shane Victorino in the bottom of the fifth. For the game, the Phillies were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base in six and two-thirds innings of work.
The Phil had a difficult time solving Arizona starting pitcher Josh Collmenter mixed his pitches well enough to keep the Phillies off-balance by allowing just two runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts.
“We wasn’t able to get a big hit when we had a guy in scoring position,” Manuel said. “(Collmenter) did a pretty good job I thought. He used all his pitches, he changed speeds good, he mixed them up. His ball had a little movement, a little hop. Even though he’s throwing 88 or 90 (miles per hour), he had some movement.”
Perhaps their biggest opportunity to push across a lot of runs occurred in the bottom of the third with the bases loaded, but Collmenter struck out Hunter Pence swinging to end the threat.
“It was a good opportunity to come back, but it was one of those things where I was fighting him off, but I wasn’t really getting the best swings off him because he’s got that funky delivery and he got the best of me the day. We had a lot of opportunities, but we didn’t get the big hit.”
Strangely enough, Halladay himself was 2-for-3 at the plate including a double in the seventh with no outs, but the Phillies could not bring him home as the next three Phillies hitters-Jimmy Rollins, Victorino and Chase Utley were retired in order.