Phillies Notebook: Manuel shifts gears in Phillies batting order

In his last 10 postseason at-bats against a lefthanded reliever,
Ryan Howard is 0-for-10 with eight strikeouts. Chase Utley, his
longtime partner in the middle of the
Phillies order, has one hit and
three strikeouts in his last 11 postseason at-bats against a lefty
reliever.

So last night, Charlie Manuel made a logical move, separating
his two lefthanded sluggers with a subtle change to his lineup.
Instead of hitting Utley third and Howard fourth, Manuel slid Utley
up to No. 2 and Placido Polanco back to No. 3. The move, which came
with tough lefty Jonathan Sanchez on the mound and lefty specialist
Javier Lopez lurking in the bullpen, was made to prevent the type
of situations that have plagued the
Phillies over the past few
postseasons, when opposing managers were free to call on their
lefty relief specialists to face Utley and Howard without having to
worry about them facing a righthanded hitter.

Such was the case in the eighth inning of Game 1, when Lopez
induced a groundout from Utley and then struck out Howard before
giving way to righthanded closer Brian Wilson.

“Same reason I always do it,” Manuel said before the start of
Game 2. “I want to kind of just have a righthanded hitter in
between them.”

Although Manuel downplayed the move, he has resisted making it
before. During last year’s World Series, he hit Howard and Utley
back-to-back in all six games despite the presence of lefty
specialist Damaso Marte in the Yankees bullpen. In the
Phillies’ 8-5 loss to veteran lefty
Andy Pettitte in Game 3, the two sluggers combined to go 0-for-8
with five strikeouts. When they faced Pettitte in Game 6, Manuel
kept Utley and Howard together in the order. Howard hit a two-run
home run against Pettitte in the sixth inning, and he and Utley
finished the night 1-for-7 with three strikeouts.

Since the start of the 2009 postseason, Utley and Howard have
combined to go 2-for-29 with 14 strikeouts and two extra-base hits
against lefty relievers.

Over the last four postseasons, they are 8-for-60 with three
home runs, 29 strikeouts, 10 walks and one hit by pitch.

Last night, though, was the first time in the
Phillies’ last 33 postseason games
that Howard and Utley did not hit back-to-back in the order.

Standing patCharlie Manuel said he looked at Ben Francisco’s
career numbers against Jonathan Sanchez before deciding to leave
Raul Ibanez in the lineup against the Giants’ tough lefty
starter.

Francisco entered the night 0-for-8 with a walk and two
strikeouts in his career against Sanchez. Ibanez was 0-for-6 with
three walks against the 27-year-old southpaw.

“I looked at the numbers; he’s 0-for-8,” Manuel said. “But at
the same time, I also look at it as Raul had a good second half,
good hits off lefties, and he’s come through and he’s good in the
clutch for us. I mean, the hits that he’s got have been big
ones.”

Rotation plansThe loss to the Giants in Game 1 apparently did
not prompt Charlie Manuel to reconsider his pitching plans. Prior
to yesterday’s game, he said he still anticipated veteran
righthander Joe Blanton starting Game 4 in San Francisco. The only
other option would be starting Roy Halladay on short rest.

“That’s still our plan,” Manuel said. “But we’ll take it day to
day and see what happens. I mean, our plans are Blanton.”

PhillersCharlie Manuel reiterated yesterday that veteran lefty
Jamie Moyer is unlikely to play this postseason, despite Moyer’s
belief that he is finally healthy. Moyer, a free-agent-to-be who
last pitched competitively on July 20, has spent the last 3 months
recovering from a strained flexor pronator tendon and sprained
ulnar collateral ligament. Said Manuel: “He hasn’t pitched in a
game. I find that a little tough” . . . Ryan Howard continues to be
one of the more visible
Phillies. During the season, he
taped a guest spot on the HBO series “Entourage.” Last week, he
read David Letterman’s Top 10 list. Yesterday, he was on the
sideline during the first half of the Eagles’ victory over the
Falcons, where he appeared live with sideline reporter Tony
Siragusa during a segment . . . The
Phillies have never won a
postseason series after losing the first game. They are 0-6 in
their history in those series, and won Game 2 in just one of
them.