Thursday, August 28, 2014
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Rewind: Two key situations from Game 4

SAN FRANCISCO -- A lot going on out there. Rightfully so. There was so much that happened in Game 4 that it's hard to begin, in no particular order...Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, Sam Perlozzo, Chad Durbin, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Ben Francisco, Jeremy Affeldt...take your pick. (OK, many have chosen Charlie Manuel.)

Rewind: Two key situations from Game 4

(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

SAN FRANCISCO -- A lot going on out there. Rightfully so. There was so much that happened in Game 4 that it's hard to begin, in no particular order...Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, Sam Perlozzo, Chad Durbin, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Ben Francisco, Jeremy Affeldt...take your pick. (OK, many have chosen Charlie Manuel.)

Both teams combined to use 11 pitchers and 23 hitters in Game 4, which featured 321 pitches. Some decisions mattered more than others. Some are being second-guessed a day later.

We won't go on the offensive. Instead, here are two situations I perceived to be extremely interesting and weren't talked about at great length about in the mass of postgame opinion and analysis that followed Game 4...

Bottom of the fifth inning, two outs: Aubrey Huff singles on a line drive to center off Joe Blanton. Andres Torres scores.

Does Charlie Manuel deserve criticism for some of his decisions in the NL Championship Series?
Yes.
No.

Before Blanton threw his first pitch to Huff, Charlie Manuel took a few glances down the right-field line to his bullpen. There, Mick Billmeyer waved. Antonio Bastardo was ready. He had been warming up with the sole purpose of facing Huff.

Huff does not have a platoon split. Against righthanded pitchers, he had a .894 OPS in 2010. Against lefthanded pitchers, he had a .844 OPS.

In the fifth, Blanton had walked the leadoff batter, Andres Torres. Edgar Renteria hit a hard grounder to third that Placido Polanco made a nice play on. Freddy Sanchez lined out sharply to center.

There are a few options. Clearly, Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee had decided before the inning began that pulling Blanton was an option, even though he was at 60 or so pitches. Jose Contreras and Bastardo warmed up when Torres walked.

Bastardo hadn't pitched in a game since Oct. 2, an even longer layoff than Blanton. But he was placed on the roster for a situation like this, early in the game with a lefthanded batter coming up.

Then again, Manuel could have had Blanton intentionally walk Huff to bring up Buster Posey to face Contreras. But Posey has been seeing the ball incredibly well.

Huff had struck out against Blanton in the first and singled to right in the third. Manuel stuck with his starter. With an 0-1 count, Blanton threw an 89 m.p.h. fastball low in the zone. Huff lined it right back at Blanton and into center for a run-scoring single.

Top of the eighth inning, one out: Ben Francisco strikes out swinging against Sergio Romo.

A lot of focus was on Jimmy Rollins' at-bat that preceded Francisco's and justifiably so. Rollins has one task: Move Jayson Werth from second to third. Instead of bunting, Rollins swung away, attempting to pull a ball to the right side. He popped out to third.

That brought up Francisco, who started Game 4 over the slumping Raul Ibanez with San Francisco starting lefthander Madison Bumgarner. As Francisco stepped to the plate, Ibanez was on the dugout steps with a helmet and a bat. In the Giants bullpen, Jeremy Affeldt stood on the mound. He was done warming up and waited to see if he would be entering the game. He did not.

Manuel had this choice: Francisco vs. the righty Romo or Ibanez vs. the lefty Affeldt.

The slider-happy Romo was fantastic this season with a 2.18 ERA. And he completely dominated righties, who had a slash line of .185/.234/.336 against Romo in 146 at-bats. Francisco, a role player starting his first game of the postseason, had a .640 OPS against righthanders during the regular season.

If he pinch-hits with Ibanez, Affeldt enters the game. Ibanez was 0 for his previous 15 at-bats before Game 4. He had an OPS of .728 against lefthanded pitchers in 2010, better than Francisco's split against righties. Affeldt wasn't spectacular against lefties. In 69 at-bats, they had a slash line of .290/.395/.420 against the lefty.

After the game, Manuel was asked about the choice there. He didn't even make it sound as if he would have let Ibanez hit against Affeldt.

"If I don't want Ibanez hitting off a lefty," Manuel said, "I can send [Mike] Sweeney up and all of a sudden I don't have a left fielder, I don't have a left fielder left."

Actually, Manuel had Ross Gload, who had yet to pinch hit. Gload, while not an ideal fielder late in a game, had played left field before.

"But at the same time," Manuel said, "I kind of like Francisco. He had two good at-bats and I kind of liked him hitting on Romo we know what he's going to do, throw sliders."

Romo threw Francisco three sliders. He swung at all three and did not put one in play.

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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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