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What’s a good remedy for the worst slump of a young slugger’s career? If you ask Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, you tell him that he’ll have a game or two off so he can clear his head. But instead of letting him sit, you send him up to pinch hit in a 1-1 game, on the road, to lead off the eighth inning!
The result was predictable. Ryan Howard, not accustomed to a pinch hitting role and batting well below .200, promptly struck out. If you want Howard to snap out of his funk, this was a bad time, Charlie! Why didn’t you just tell him to lie down in the dugout and give him a swift kick in the ribs? That may have been less painful than his 33 rd strikeout of the season.
If the game is tied late, wouldn’t it make sense to lead off the inning with a guy who’s more likely to make contact and get on base? Instead, you put your slumping slugger into a pressure situation and send his batting average and confidence even further south of the Mendoza line. If you’re going to give Howard a couple days off to clear his head, let him clear it! Don’t fill it with more doubt!
Fortunately, the two guys who have carried the Phillies offense, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, provided the necessary offense later in the inning to give the Phillies a 3-1 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee.
This move made about as much sense as using Geoff Jenkins, another strikeout artist, as a pinch hitter when contact is a must in a close game. This has already happened more than once this season.
I think Manuel has held up incredibly well under the pressure from Philadelphia fans and media while keeping his players loose, but his in-game decisions continue to boggle my mind. For future reference, if a guy is in a ridiculous slump, don’t send him to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of a tie game on the road. It’s a bad time, Charlie!