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In just two days Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel made two of the most critical decisions of his career and those decisions could cost the Phillies the World Series.
The first choice came Friday afternoon when Manuel tabbed righty Joe Blanton to start Game 4 on ample rest over Game-1-star Cliff Lee on short rest. The second choice came during the game 3 loss to the Yankees when with the Phils trailing by two and a runner on Manuel opted to bat light-hitting Eric Bruntlett over Ben Francisco.
Let’s first look at what could be with Blanton. He will take the hill against Yankees ace CC Sabathia with the Phils trailing the Yankees two games to one -- pretty much the entire series on the line.
Blanton hasn’t pitched great in the postseason but also wasn’t horrible posting a 0-0 record in three games (one start) while giving up five earned runs in 9.2 innings pitched. Part of his problems stemmed from the lack of a put away pitch -- he has only struck out three batters below his 7.5 strikeouts-per-nine-innings season average.
Joe could become a hero if he could rekindle a bit of his World Series magic from last year when he gave up only two runs in six innings. Oh yeah and hit one of the most surprising homers in postseason history.
If the Blanton and the Phillies lose Lee would serve as a series savior in Game 5 -- should Blanton out duel Sabathia then Lee can put the team on the cusp of a repeat.
Anyway it breaks down choosing Blanton seemed odd. By pitching Lee on full rest on Monday the Phils virtually ruled him out of starting a potential Game 7 on Thursday.
The verdict on Blanton in Game 4 will be decided Sunday night. The verdict on the Bruntlett decision was cruelly decided during Game 3.
It was flat out senseless to bat Bruntlett in that spot. Carlos Ruiz had just worked a two-out walk against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte putting the veteran lefty on the ropes.
At the time the Phils trailed 6-4 -- a homer would have tied the game. But, instead of going with the more powerful right-handed bat of Francisco and possibly prompting Yanks manager Joe Girardi to call on a righty out of the pen, Uncle Charlie put up Bruntlett.
Brunts brought a homerless season to the plate (heck the last time this guy homered was the last World Series) and he wound up lightly popping out to end the threat.
Francisco would never come off the bench and the Phillies bullpen would allow two more Yankees runs to put the game out of hand.
If Francisco was given a chance things might have ended differently.