Charlie Manuel isn't the most expressive guy in the world, but there are rare times when he can't suppress a grin, and in that moment it is pretty easy to tell what he is thinking. Wednesday night, he had one such moment, as he broke down lefthander J.A. Happ's complete game masterpiece against the Rockies. Colorado manager Jim Tracy called it "one of the best games pitched against us this season." Considering that they have faced Dan Haren, Derek Lowe and Roy Oswalt, that is pretty lofty praise. Manuel, of course, was asked about Happ's future in the rotation, which has been in doubt with Pedro Martinez nearing a return to the big leagues.
"One of these days I'll answer it correctly," Manuel said, declining to do so this time.
He had spent the past couple of days swatting away that question. Prior to the game, he got testy when a reporter approached the subject. But last night, he couldn't stop grinning.
I asked Manuel what Happ's performance showed him.
"I think he showed me he wanted to stay in the rotation," Manuel said.
The final line: 9 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 10 strikeouts, 2 walks. Oh, and a double in the bottom of the eighth that sent the crowd into bedlam. They had already given him a standing O as he walked off the mound in the eighth, noticing that Ryan Madson was warming in the bullpen. But Manuel sent him back out for the ninth, despite the fact that Happ had thrown 110 pitches. He finished with 127, the last of which smacked into Carlos Ruiz's glove for a called third strike, a fastball that was clocked at 94 miles an hour.
It'll be interesting to see what the Phillies decide to do with Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer. But James Anthony Happ took care of business last night at Citizens Bank Park. And, really, isn't that what the stretch run is all about?