There is a lot of blame to be passed around for Thursday night’s loss to the Chicago Cubs and some of it came from the most unlikely of sources. In a game that featured multiple innings of work from Kyle Kendrick, Danys Baez and David Herndon, it stands to reason that one of those three would have been the reason for the 4-3 loss in extra innings.
No, the blame can be cast upon just about everyone else who was in the game. From the offense, who scored only three runs off one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball, to the back end of the bullpen, who allowed a pair of runs in the late innings and to the normally pristine defense, whose gaffes allowed a pair of runs to score.
But there was another moment in the game that deserves some ink, and that is in the bottom of the 10th, when Shane Victorino walked and Raul Ibanez singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. The Cubs then opted to intentionally walk Domonic Brown to load the bases, so they could go after relief pitcher David Herndon, who was the next hitter.
Ordinarily, you’d pinch hit for Herndon there, for obvious reasons. But due to the unusual circumstances of the game, the Phillies didn’t have any pitchers left in the bullpen. Although it sounds like poor management of one's assets, Charlie actually played it by the book, using Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson to get the last nine outs after previously using Baez and J.C. Romero to get through six following Kendrick’s early departure. But the ‘pen faltered and gave up a run in the eighth and ninth, meaning that Charlie had just one guy to go the rest of the way with unless he wanted to run a starting pitcher or a position player to pitch.
Back to the bottom of the 10th. With the bases loaded and two away, Charlie had to decide whether he wanted to pinch hit Wilson Valdez or Ross Gload for David Herndon in hopes that either of them could knock in the winning run, but at the same time risk going to the 11th without a relief pitcher, in which case he would have likely turned to utility infielde/relief pitcher extraordinaire Valdez to take the mound.
He played it safe and didn’t opt to pinch hit for his relief pitcher. It was a calculated risk, and one that didn’t pay off, as Herndon went down on four pitches without putting up much of a fight, and the Cubs scored a run in the top of the 11th, despite not hitting a ball out of the infield.
It’s a decision that is ripe for second guessing, but it isn’t one that has a clear answer, at least not to me. On one hand, both Valdez and Gload hit baseballs for a living, but neither are sure things when it comes to needing a big hit.
On the other hand, Herndon is the last remaining relief pitcher and would give the Phillies the best shot at keeping the Cubs off the board (not counting one of the starting pitchers).
So I ask you, fans, what would you have done? Did Charlie Manuel make the right choice in sticking with his pitcher, or should he have gone for it with two outs in the bottom of the 10th?