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.