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.