Breaking down the last four innings of a 5-3 loss. . .

Charlie Manuel and the Phillies fell to the Braves, 5-3, on Saturday afternoon at Turner Field. (Paul Abell/AP file photo)

It's easy to second-guess Charlie Manuel's bullpen decision-making in the Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Braves. But let's try to talk through his rationale:

Trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Manuel's ideal game unfolds like this:

-Lefty J.C. Romero faces lefty Eric Hinske, pitches carefully to righty Dan Uggla, then faces lefty Freddie Freeman.

-Romero either retires all three, or retires Hinske and Freeman and walks Uggla.

-Kyle Kendrick faces Alex Gonzalez-David Ross-Jair Jurrjens-Martin Prado and takes you through the seventh.
-Antonio Bastardo gets the eighth against lefty Nate McLouth, switch-hitter Chipper Jones, and lefty Hinske.

-Ryan Madson gets the ninth with a lead, or Mike Stutes gets the ninth in a tie game.

The other scenario he probably pondered goes like this:

-Romero faces the same three batters.

-Stutes, rather than Kendrick, follows Romero.

-Bastardo gets the eighth.

Now, let's look at the two key decisions that Manuel made after pinch-hitting for Joe Blanton in the bottom of the fifth (a move that led to the Phillies' only run to that point):

1) Kendrick over Stutes

Romero got Hinske, but allowed Uggla and Freeman to reach base. With runners on first and second and one out in the sixth, he decided to go with Kendrick for two reasons. First, Kendrick is a sinker-ball, groundball pitchers, and the Phillies were a double play away from getting out of the inning. Second, Alex Gonzalez and David Ross were due up. Gonzalez was 0-for-8 in his career against Kendrick. Ross was 0-for-5. In his last two outings against the Braves, Stutes allowed a home run to Eric Hinske and almost allowed a grand slam to Dan Uggla on a hanging slider that sailed just to the left of the foul pole.

You can certainly argue that Stutes' strikeout stuff would have been the proper play. But if Manuel's biggest concern was a three-run home run by Gonzalez, then you can see why he thought Kendrick was the safe play.

2) Letting Kendrick face Martin Prado

This one might have been the biggest question mark. After Kendrick gets a loud fly-out from Gonzalez, Ross reaches base on an RBI bunt single and Jair Jurrjens walks. The bases are loaded for Martin Prado. Not only has Prado killed Phillies pitching this series, as well as in his career, the Braves' leadoff hitter is 5-for-10 in his career against Kendrick. In the bullpen is Vance Worley, who got Prado to ground out on Friday night. Perhaps Manuel is hesitant to burn his two most stretched-out relievers in one inning, which would have left him with Danys Baez and Scott Mathieson as the two multiple-inning-type guys should the game go to extras.

The other option, then, was Stutes. Problem is, he would essentially be calling on Stutes to face one hitter, since lefty McLouth, switch-hitter Jones, and lefty Hinske were due up. Assuming Stutes retired Prado, lefty Antonio Bastardo would have pitched the seventh.

At that point, the play would have been to call on Worley for the eighth and, hopefully, ninth (assuming the Phillies were still down or the game was tied). Mathieson, Baez and Madson would then be the guys from that point on.

Manuel also could have called on Bastardo to face Prado, who is 0-for-2 against him, leaving him in to face McLouth-Jones-Hinske. He then might have had either Stutes or Worley for the eighth or ninth.

Whatever things Manuel envisioned, it's a safe bet that they did not go according to plan.

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