July 18, 2009 3:34 AM

Manuel and Phillies Win Marathon Battle of Master Tacticians

MLB: JUN 01 Phillies at Padres

There was plenty of time for heroics in Friday night's marathon game with the Florida Marlins. Four hours and five minutes of playing time, to be exact. Phillies' starter Cole Hamels pitched well, allowing only a single run, in his five-inning outing. Unfortunately, a seventy-eight minute rain delay ended Hamels' night. Chase Utley (two-run homer), Jayson Werth (RBI single), and Pedro Feliz (RBI double) had given Hamels a 4-1 lead.

Philadelphia relievers Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, and Chad Durbin were knocked around by the Marlins, who tied the score at four, in the bottom of the eighth. The umpires helped provide the sparse crowd with free, extra-inning baseball, as all four of them missed a balk call. The balk would have given the Phillies a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth. Instead, the score remained tied, even as play entered the top of the twelfth. That's when Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel outmaneuvered the Marlins, ensuring the Phils' victory.

Jimmy Rollins lead off the twelfth with a single. Manuel decided to play for a single run, and .305-hitting Shane Victorino sacrificed Rollins to second. With Brad Lidge (7.09 ERA) the last Phillies reliever remaining, the Phils would only need one run to win. (The probability that Lidge would allow at least one run in the bottom of the inning was only about 91%.)

The Mighty Paul Bako (.214 average) was lurking just two batters away, so the Marlins opted to pitch to the .312-hitting Chase Utley, with first base open. (Bako had been, ingeniously, inserted into the fifth spot in the order, as part of Manuel's second double switch of the game.) Five hours after Utley had homered, the All-Star second sacker gave the Phils the lead again, by stroking an RBI single. After Ryan Howard grounded out, Silver Slugger-candidate Paul Bako came to the plate, with an important insurance run on second base. With All-Star Jayson Werth on deck (20 HR), there was no way the Marlins were going to take their chances with Bako's bat, and the backstop was intentionally walked. Werth followed with an RBI single, but the damage would likely had been much worse, if the Marlins hadn't taken the bat out of The Mighty Bako's hands. The two-run lead was plenty for Phils' closer Brad Lidge, who permitted only a single run (two walks). Lidge's crisp, twenty-eight pitch frame ended with the tying run on third base.

The Phillies increased their division lead to six games, a season-high advantage. The Phillies' Joe Blanton will be opposed by Marlins' ace Josh Johnson, in the third game of the series, on Saturday. Johnson has a 2.94 FIP, and has recorded quality starts in nine, of his last ten, outings. He does have a low .288 BABIP, and a high 77.1 LOB %. Johnson is due for some adversity, and the Phillies' bats are a good candidate to get Johnson's inevitable regression rolling.

A Member Of