Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rocktober is Over

I’ve seen that look before- the one covering the Rockies fans’ faces after the Philadelphia Phillies rallied for three runs in the ninth inning, ending their season. Maybe it was the 2002 NFC Championship Game versus Tampa Bay. Maybe Dale Hunter ending the 1998 Flyers season. To be alive entering the building- and oh so dead leaving it.

So the only team with any hope of derailing the New York Yankees continues to the next round. I’m surprisingly confident- Philadelphians know for a fact that Randy Wolf and Vincente Padilla can be had- and those two characters figure to make like four starts here.

Ultimately, this series victory further validates Charlie Manuel. Any fool can probably win this thing once via superior talent or luck. And I am the first guy to ding Charlie as an in-game strategist.

But this series, he and his approach shined. The hallmark of this organization under Charlie has been 27-outs, 162-games. They never quit- always give the A-level effort. Buried behind the Mets, a gut punch last night during the Rockies own three run eighth inning rally… doesn’t matter. The Phillies pick themselves up- and generate good at-bats, get good speed on the bases, pressure, more pressure, until one of their big RBI bats crunches one.

But, in addition this time, Charlie did a great job with the pitching. He has zero trusted bullpen options and no clear solutions as to the game three starter. But he got the pitchers with the best chance to succeed in the game again and again. Colorado can’t hit left-handed starting pitching- well, here is lefty after lefty. No closer? Well, defer to what we can do… get Madson in the game in the most crucial situations regardless of inning, get Eyre to faces bunches of left-handed hitting, mix and match Happ and Blanton from the rotation or long-relief to get the next six outs, spot Lidge where he only need to get one out and not three on a back-to-back night.

Not all the moves worked- the Phillies surely have real ‘pen issues- but a lot did because guys were brought in to pitch in situations they arguably could handle. Eyre might not be a ninth inning candidate- but he is sort of a candidate to get a couple of lefties out- so he is in position to succeed getting left-handed hitting out in the ninth, right?

So good job Charlie.

(ed. note- a more cheery Game 7 ending versus Washington)

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