The Turning Point: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel taps elderly left-hander Jamie Moyer to start Game 3 of the NLCS on Sunday night. The Dodgers knock around Moyer, listed as 45 years old, for six earned runs over 1 1/3 innings on the way to a 7-2 victory, their first in the best-of-seven series.
The Question: Should the Phillies skipper have started twenty-something right-hander Joe Blanton, who went undefeated in the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with the Phillies, and with whom Philadelphia has gone 10-4 overall in his starts?
Yeah, baby: Up 2-0 in the series and in a position to virtually put away the Dodgers with another victory, Manuel defers to age and experience instead of "stuff" and probability. Players currently on the Dodgers roster came in batting .307 with a .642 slugging percentage against Moyer in 192 career plate appearances. Manny Ramirez's numbers alone — 10 homers in 53 at-bats — should have convinced Manuel into going with Blanton, who split against L.A. in two starts this season but beat them as recently as Aug. 24. Blanton has been vulnerable to the home run with the Phillies, but that probably would have been neutralized by the size of Dodger Stadium and the game being played at night, when the ball carries less.
No way, dude: Sure, Blanton is undefeated with the Phillies, but his contributions have been neutral. He could just as easily be 0-4 or .500 for Philly, which averages 5.62 runs on offense in Blanton's starts. Dodgers hitters were a little better against lefties overall, but not enough to make Blanton a clear-cut choice instead of Moyer. The ancient ex-Mariner won 16 games during the regular season and came in with 33 2/3 innings of postseason experience. Blanton has accrued eight.
Hindsight is 20/20: The Phillies might have been thinking "sweep" after a couple of strong performances but the Dodgers were fixing to bust out offensively, especially in light of their umbrage at Phillies hurlers backing guys off the plate. Moyer, continuing to pitch inside, hit Russell Martin in the first before L.A. hit back, refusing to be bothered anymore by the buzzing.
"He had a tough time tonight. They came out swinging on him. They were not taking very many pitches. And they hit some balls hard and also seemed like everything they hit went through for a hit." — Manuel, on Moyer.
"To me they're like a school of sharks. Kind of on the prowl." — Moyer on L.A.
"He's a pitcher that definitely needs to get the count in his favor, and then he tries to expand the zone. We were just being aggressive and he was throwing hittable pitches early in the count, and we just jumped on them." — Martin, on Moyer.
Stew Verdict — Manuel did right: Sheesh, all that arguing and then to agree with the manager? Sorry, Charlie. Blanton is unbeaten, but it's not a "CC Sabathia" kind of unbeaten, and Moyer got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moyer's on track for a potential Game 7, so this may not be the last time we have this debate.