The most frustrating thing about the Phillies 5-4 loss to Colorado in Game 2 was the way every potentially suspect part of the Phillies was magnified in one shot: Howard’s throwing, Charlie’s in game managing, the bullpen.
Charlie’s decision to have both suspected Game 3 starters pitch out of the bullpen (both Blanton & Happ) has drawn a lot of controversy.
First, Bill Conlin:
Will Terrible Thursday be remembered by Phillies fans as a pitching version of 1977's Black Friday?Conversely, Sam Donnellon:
The question hangs like a cloud of frozen breath in a walk-in freezer after an excruciating, 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies. It will be answered this weekend in a Denver ballpark where the fans will turn blue long before those mountains on a chilling Coors can.
Between them, starter Cole Hamels and manager Charlie Manuel might have blown up the jury-rigged pitching staff in Game 2 of a National League Division Series that appeared so signed, sealed and all but delivered after Wednesday's sandblasted, 5-1 victory over the resilient Rockies.
Manuel's not scared. He's a pragmatist. As he noted yesterday, he's been piecing together his bullpen from the first game of the season, forced by a suspension, injuries and ineffectiveness into trial and error, trial and error, trial and error.I tend to come down with the latter. Charlie had his chance for a kill shot right there- and he took it. Didn’t work. But Game 2 in a five game series is not too late to start moving the switches in earnest. Heck, if the Phillies manage to win the series now, pretty much no matter what machinations are required, Hamels can start Game 1 of a subsequent series and Lee is generally available. So Charlie didn't burn long term surplus starting pitching.
Burning excess short term starting pitching would be a problem if Charlie actually gave up something tangible… but I don’t know if he did. The Phillies both entered and exited the second game needing to get fifteen innings (or so) out of Blanton, Happ and Pedro in Colorado. I’m pretty sure nothing that happened to change the Phillies ability to do that. Less than twenty pitches is not going to affect either of those guys to pitch an effective four to six innings over the weekend.
Maybe Pedro is now forced to start- but of the three, I’d rather him start than relieve- so what is the big deal? Sure, it is going to be cold in Colorado- but he is going to have to pitch and get nine to fifteen outs some time with this bullpen. At worst, Pedro is moved up to start game three rather than either game four or some ill-defined future relief stint. A small trade to take a shot to end the series.