Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chalk this loss up to Charlie

Much of the blame for the Phillies' mediocre start to this season can go to their offensive woes.

Reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins has missed 10 games and won't come off the disabled until at least May 4. Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard, hitting just .181 with four home runs, is on pace to strikeout 235 times. Without Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, who lead the league in home runs and runs batted in, respectively, the team would be floundering below .500.

But Wednesday night in Milwaukee, that loss can go squarely on the shoulders of manager Charlie Manuel.

In case you missed it, the Phillies led the Brewers, 4-3, heading into the bottom of the 8th inning, needing only 6 more outs to move to 12-10 on the season. Starter Cole Hamels, who gave up 3 runs in the first inning, had settled down and had 11 strikeouts, but was near 110 pitches entering the frame.

The Phillies bullpen, surprisingly, has pitched well so far this season. Monday night in Colorado, the relievers allowed just 1 hit and 0 runs over four innings, allowing the team to rally for a victory.

Managers should know it's better to take a starter out too early rather than leave him in for a few too many hitters, but Manuel stuck with Hamels. When leadoff hitter Ryan Braun laced a double to start the eighth, Hamels should have been pulled. But Charlie left him in, and Prince Fielder, who homered off Hamels in the first inning, laced a tracer over the fence in right-center field to give Milwaukee a 5-4 lead.

That was it for Hamels, but he shouldn't have started the inning. Manuel should have turned the game over to the bullpen. Closer Brad Lidge was unavailable, but Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Tom Gordon should have had a chance to win the game.

Instead, another 'L' was put on the scoreboard.

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