July 9, 2009 2:06 AM

Victorino Walks-off (to All-Star Game?)


Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel was in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Wednesday night's game against the Reds was strangely familiar to Tuesday night's loss. Rodrigo Lopez (five innings, two earned runs) pitched well enough to win, but the Phillies had wasted too many opportunities (nine LOB). Jayson Werth just missed gunning a batter down at first base, the pre-Lidge bullpenners were strong (Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson combined for four scoreless frames), and the bench players should have remained rooted to the bench (pinch-hitters were 0 for 4, with three whiffs). Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth, keeping the score tied, with Brad Lidge ready to enter in the top of the ninth. Manuel was in a maze of twisting little passages, all alike. Tuesday night's loss against the Reds was strangely familiar to Wednesday night's game.

Until Charlie Manuel chose a course of action that allowed him to escape the maze of little twisting passages, all alike. Instead of bringing Brad Lidge into the game in the ninth, with the score tied at 2, Ryan Madson stayed in to pitch a second inning. Manuel has been much-maligned for his bullpen usage, particularly his propensity to burn several relievers in a single inning, and his unwillingness to ride a "hot hand" for multiple innings. Manuel chose to ride the hot hand, instead of the textbook move of bringing in his closer in the top of the ninth, in a tie game at home. Madson held the Reds off the scoreboard in the top of the ninth, and the Phils were set for a walk-off victory. But not until the tenth inning, as Pedro Feliz, Paul Bako, and Eric Bruntlett were the scheduled batters in the bottom of the ninth.

Of course, Manuel's flexible decision-making had opened the possibilities for numerous different plotlines, including endings where Bako and/or Bruntlett contributed in a positive manner at the plate. Well, perhaps those unlikely possibilities hadn't been opened, as both of the relatively-useless role players were retired meekly. (Personally, I think I'd rather be eaten by a grue, than witness Bako's gruesome attempts to bunt again.) However, a Feliz single, Bako and Bruntlett only accounting for a single out apiece, and a Jimmy Rollins walk, put the winning run on second. With two outs, Final Vote Candidate Shane Victorino ambled out of the dugout, to further his All-Star aspirations. Four pitches later, Victorino lined a slider into center field, clinching a walkoff victory for the Phils, and ensuring the Flyin Hawaiian additional voting support. Not that he needs it...

The Phillies finish their four-game series with the Reds on Thursday night. Jamie Moyer faces Micah Owings. What will Charlie Manuel do next- summon Brad Lidge for a four-out save? Let Greg Dobbs face a southpaw, rather then pinch-hitting for Dobbs with .139 "hitter" Eric Bruntlett? That remains to be seen. But we do know this: Shane Victorino will be announced as an All-Star, prior to the Phillies' series-winning victory. No questions asked.

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