Manuel Mismanages Bullpen in Loss to Reds

Todd TranauskyCorrespondent IApril 5, 2008

The Cincinnati Reds defeated the Phillies 4-3 on a walk-off infield single to even the four game series at a game apiece. The Phillies received an excellent outing from their starter Adam Eaton, who wound up with a no decision. Eaton allowed three earned runs in seven and two thirds innings.

The reasons the Phillies lost this game stem from two main sources, missed opportunities with runners on base and mismanagement of the bullpen. The Phillies had opportunities to score in the first and sixth innings, but failed to capitalize. The Phils only left seven runners on base for the game, but five of those were in scoring position.

The bottom half of the lineup did little to alleviate that situation. The hitters from the fifth spot on down went a combined 2-for18 in the game. While no one expects the bottom half of the lineup to be stellar, they need to contribute at least marginally to the team’s offensive production and they failed to do that.

In spite of that offensive futility, the Phils had to chance to hold on for the win.

While the focus will be on Chad Durbin’s lack of control in the ninth inning, the reason the Phils’ bullpen lost the game goes much deeper than that. The root cause goes all the way back to a decision manager Charlie Manuel made in Friday night’s game against the Reds.

Manuel brought Rudy Seanez into the game as part of a double switch to start the eighth inning on Friday. After using the double switch to stay away from the pitcher’s spot so Seanez could pitch two innings, he brings JC Romero in to pitch the ninth anyway. Romero had pitched in all the Phillies games so far and it was the third day in a row the lefthander had seen action. Ryan Madson threw 35 pitches in a two inning appearance earlier on Friday night, which meant both were unavailable to Manuel on Saturday.  

After Gordon was brought in to help a tiring Eaton finish the eight inning, Manuel had to make a decision with the pitcher’s spot due up third in the top of the ninth. Would he let Gordon hit for himself with the bases empty and two outs, or would he go to the bullpen?  Manuel chose to go to the bullpen.

Brad Lidge was activated before the game and was available, if Manuel had decided to go that route. The skipper clearly wanted to bring his closer into a non-pressure situation for his first appearance since coming off the Disabled List and chose to stay away from the man who is expected to be the closer. Manuel chose to use Durbin over Clay Condrey and Rudy Seanez , who were also out in the Phils bullpen.

If Manuel had brought Lidge in the game and it blew up, he could have easily taken the blame by saying he shouldn’t have put Lidge in that situation. While it is understandable that Manuel would want to give his closer an easy outing for his first appearance of the season, the ninth inning of Saturday’s game demanded a closer. With all due respect to Durbin, he’s not a closer.

Manuel set his bullpen up to fail and they obliged.  Manuel tried to be nice to Lidge and all it got his team was a loss.