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While Charlie Manuel will never be confused with an Ivy League scholar, he is a major league manager with a postseason resume. I know for a fact that he does have some level of baseball acumen. If that’s the case, why in the name of all that’s reasonable would you call upon Ryan Howard and his batting average that’s comparable to Shane Victorino’s weight to pinch hit late in a tight game when that experiment failed the day before???
The Phillies are leading 6-5 in the eighth inning. Greg Dobbs, an accomplished pinch hitter, leads off with a walk. This is when you play small ball and manufacture an insurance run. Send someone to the plate who can make contact or lay down a sacrifice bunt if necessary to move the runner into scoring position.
What does Charlie Manuel do? He brings in Ryan Howard and his 34 strikeouts to pinch hit. What does Pirates manager and former Phillies minor league manager John Russell do? He motions to the bullpen, touches his left arm, and hands the ball to lefty Damaso Marte. Sure, Marte entered the game with an 8.38 ERA, but it didn’t matter. He could have placed the ball on a tee and Howard wouldn’t have been able to hit it. The obvious result? Strikeout number 35 on a slider low and away. Deja-damn-vu!
Sometimes Charlie Manuel is like the lab rat that repeatedly shocks itself when it thinks it’s grabbing a piece of cheese. It didn’t work last time. Howard hasn’t been hitting all season. His confidence is at an all-time low. After these two pinch hitting debacles, do you think Howard has cleared his head after not starting back-to-back games? Now what do you do? Stick him back in the lineup and hope his hitting ails have been cured?
Fortunately, the Phillies bullpen combo of Gordon-Romero-Lidge was brilliant and held the Pirates scoreless to preserve the 6-5 win. I guarantee that Manuel would be under much more scrutiny if the Phillies lost either one of these games. There are good times and bad times for using Ryan Howard as a pinch hitter. This was another bad time, Charlie!