Good luck comes in 3-hole for Polanco, Phils

AGAINST THE EVIL lefthandedness that was Jonathan Sanchez, the

Phillies, logically, needed a

righthanded hitter to come through.

Charlie Manuel bet it would be Placido Polanco. He bet it so

hard that he dropped Polanco to the No. 3 slot and moved regular

No. 3 hitter Chase Utley into Polanco’s No. 2 hole.

Manuel was right.

“Charlie’s a genius,” said

Phillies leadoff hitter Shane

Victorino.

Polanco made Manuel look like it.

In the first inning, with Utley on second, Polanco made contact

– important against Sanchez, a strikeout artist – and grounded to

third base. Mike Fontenot’s throw was low and wide, moving Utley to

third. He later scored on a bases-loaded walk.

Polanco then supplied the sacrifice fly in the fifth inning that

scored Victorino and gave the

Phillies a 2-1 lead.

Polanco’s unlikely RBI single to centerfield in the seventh

cushioned things further, the first blood in a four-run rally that

clinched the win and evened the NLCS at a game apiece.

“That’s exactly what we needed out of ‘Polly,’ ” said Manuel the

Genius. “Polly’s that kind of hitter. Tonight, he got some

situations where he was able to produce.”

It was unlikely because it scored pitcher Roy Oswalt from second

base after Oswalt ran through a stop sign from third-base coach Sam

Perlozzo.

It was unlikely, also, because it came off righthander Ramon

Ramirez, who had just intentionally walked Utley. Polanco was

hitless in four career tries against Ramirez, and he seemed

anything but locked in. And, fighting a back issue that already

cost him one game and a chronic elbow issue that causes frequent

difficulty, he was 2-for-15 in the playoffs.

Still, as a key offseason addition, Polanco was the

Phillies’ second-best hitter this

season, at .298. Besides, he has credentials. An All-Star, Polanco

was the MVP of the 2006 ALCS with Detroit, and he’d been to the

playoffs with the Cardinals, too. He entered last night with a .277

postseason average in 28 games.

This was not his first rodeo, so Manuel rode him.

“It satisfying. It was a good feeling,” Polanco said of his RBI,

the ninth and 10th of what is becoming a distinguished playoff

career.

“You get more relaxed as you play a lot of games in the

postseason,” Polanco said.

Polanco then scored as part of the two-out, three-run double by

Jimmy Rollins.

Rollins, a switch-hitter, might have been Manuel’s righthanded

hope, but Rollins had been frigid in the postseason and,

historically, Sanchez iced him: Rollins was 1-for-16 before his RBI

walk and his single last night, so he remained in the No. 6

spot.

Polanco was 3-for-9 against Sanchez. He even contributed this

season, when Sanchez crushed the

Phillies, surrendering five total

hits in two starts. Shane Victorino had four. Polanco had the other

one.

“I didn’t even know that,” Polanco said.

Manuel did.

Maybe that made the lineup choice simpler.

Jayson Werth, remaining in the No. 5 hole, could have served as

the big righthanded bat, but he didn’t. Sanchez struck out Werth

twice with runners in scoring position and induced a weak grounder

in their third faceoff.

It was not Rollins or Werth.

Manuel placed his hope in Polanco.

It is a move he has used against tough lefthanded starters

before, so the starter couldn’t dominate lineup centerpieces Utley

and Ryan Howard, both of whom hit lefthanded.

“I want to have a righthanded hitter between them,” Manuel

said.

He picked the right one.

Genius.