Manuel’s trust in Rollins pays off with 3-run double

At some point, he had to join the party. It was implausible, the
thought that the Phillies could win the last game of the 2010
season without the help of Jimmy Rollins.

And yet he looked so awful on the right side of the plate, so
feeble on the left side of the plate this postseason, that
Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s
solution to escape a seventh-inning jam Sunday night was to somehow
get to Rollins’ place in the order.

Rollins, who played at Encinal High in Alameda, had mustered
just two hits in the playoffs, one a little gift that dropped
between three
Giants infielders to begin the
fourth inning Sunday. In the press box, probably in the stands, in
the living rooms and bars across the Delaware Valley, too, there
was an uneasy argument even that pinch-hitting for the Phillies’
franchise shortstop was the sharpest course of action. Especially
when Bochy intentionally walked hitless Jayson Werth to load the
bases, then replaced lefthander Jeremy Affeldt with right-handed
Santiago Casilla, forcing Rollins to bat left-handed.

“I never considered it at all, really,” manager Charlie Manuel
said after Rollins’ three-run double in the seventh broke open the
Phillies’ 6-1 victory over San Francisco in Game 2 of the NLCS.
“When you show me you can do something, when I see it and trust in
you “… This is a game where you can really go bad “…

“I’ve got a lot of faith in him, and I stand there and pull for
him. I know how good he can hit, and I also know how much he wants
to be up there.”

It’s why none of us are managers. It’s why players love to play
for Charlie Manuel. Whether through his periodic struggles at
leadoff, or his recent struggles to bat as well or run as well as
we are accustomed to seeing, Rollins never quite lost his manager
the way he lost some of us.

“I’ll stay right with you, son,” Manuel said. “I’ll go down with
you.”

And he did, throughout some key at-bats against Cincinnati, and
again the other night. Play Wilson Valdez, some said. Bat Jimmy
leadoff where he will feel more comfortable, went the touchy-feely
theorem.

Which is why Rollins’ bases-clearing double off the
right-centerfield wall wasn’t just about sealing a critical
victory. It was about hope, promise, and ultimately — for anxious
fans unaccustomed to seeing their team behind in a postseason
series — relief.

“I was glad I was the person up there at the moment and able to
come through,” Rollins said. “But you don’t celebrate until you win
four games. And once we get to that point, you can look back and
say that was a big hit. But for now, it just gave us a little
breathing room.”

The Phillies head to San Francisco for the next three games of
this series with a little more air in their lungs, a little better
karma now. They chased a pretty good pitcher in Jonathan Sanchez.
It took a lot of pitches and a lot of grueling at-bats and yes,
missed opportunities, but they scored six runs and chipped away at
a
Giants bullpen that was supposed to
be San Francisco’s edge. It was a very un-Phillielike rally, fueled
by the leadoff hitter sacrificing the pitcher to second and Bochy
then playing his dangerous game of matchup by having his pitchers
issue two intentional walks, the second to get to Rollins.

Rollins’ double was the Phillies’ fifth extra-base hit of this
series. While this already eclipses their three-game total against
Cincinnati, it masks this: The Phillies have recorded consecutive
hits just once in the postseason, back in the second inning of Game
1 of the NLDS.

Rollins came to the plate with one hit in his back pocket, a
bloop in front of the pitcher’s mound that the
Giants misplayed into a hit to start
the inning. Rollins didn’t score, but twice he attempted steals on
balls fouled off. He ran all-out and fast both times, and for the
first time in more than a month, he looked something like his old
self.

Or his best self.

“If you cover me every day, you know where I’m coming from,” he
said. “You figure out things. You solve problems. Sometimes there’s
going to be confusion. But once you lose confidence, you’re not
going to be able to play at this level.

“God gave me this talent. And I’m going to do something with it.
That’s just the way it is.”

There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, a lot of questions
still to be answered about the Phillies’ ability to support their
three aces against a
Giants staff of the same. But if
Rollins has figured out things, solved problems, rejoined the
party?

Well, that answers a whole bunch of questions.