October 21, 2010
When appropriate, Big League Stew reviews key decisions to see if the right one was made.
The Turning Point: With the score tied 5-all to begin the bottom of the ninth, the Philadelphia Phillies turned to Roy Oswalt(notes), the starting pitcher from Game 2 of the NLCS. The move did not work out, as the San Francisco Giants rallied for the winning run on Juan Uribe's(notes) sacrifice fly, giving them a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
The Question: With closer Brad Lidge(notes) and two other arms available in the bullpen, how much sense did it make for manager Charlie Manuel to use Oswalt on two days of rest — not including the bullpen session he did before Wednesday's game?
The Case For: Manuel said Oswalt went to Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee and told him he was good to go, which made him an option in the first place. Also, considering the Giants had last ups, the Phillies eventually would need someone to close the game were they to take a lead, which is why Lidge wasn't used with a tie score at that point.
With Ryan Madson(notes), Jose Contreras(notes) Chad Durbin(notes) and Antonio Bastardo(notes) already burned, Manuel's other options included left-hander J.C. Romero(notes) — but his lack of control and extreme vulnerability to right-handed batters probably wasn't appealing. And it's likely that right-hander Kyle Kendrick(notes) is only on the roster in case of a catastrophic injury to a starter.
The Case Against: At some point, Lidge might have been counted on for one or even two innings — so why not go the ninth and a hypothetical 10th? Lidge has been pitching well, and he's used to pitching in relief.
Oswalt, though willing, couldn't have been at his best pitching two days after a start. His only other career postseason relief appearance came in 2004 with the Astros.
Manuel, on Oswalt volunteering to pitch: "He already [had] told Dubee that he could go. He said he wanted to be in there. He said he'd be glad to go."
Oswalt: "You know you're only coming in for an inning, maybe two, and trying to make pitches. You don't have to worry about getting to the seventh or eighth inning."
Lidge: "When you got a really good starter, a guy who has done a lot of good things, it's nice when they come down to the 'pen in the postseason. Every game is kind of do or die. We appreciated Roy went down there, for sure."
Oswalt: "I felt all right [to pitch]; I threw a bullpen [session] today, but it's the playoffs."
Manuel, on whether the extra work leaves Oswalt vulnerable for his potential Game 6 start: "I don't think so. I think that he knows himself a little bit more than I do. And Dubee watches him a lot; He's closer to him than I am; He spends more time with him. At the same time, no, I don't think so."
Stew Verdict: Considering what else the Phillies had to work with come the ninth, Oswalt was as good of an option as any. It didn't work out, and now Roy Halladay(notes) will try to keep the season alive in Game 5.
The game had about a dozen questionable decisions. It seemed to hurt the Phillies down the line, though, when Manuel declined to do a double switch in the fifth inning when Contreras came in to pitch. Contreras struck out the only batter he faced and was lifted for a pinch hitter after throwing six pitches. After Lidge and Madson, Contreras is Philly's best reliever. If he's able to go even 1 1/3 innings, it would have dramatically changed how the rest of the game went.
This is the bigger problem facing the Phillies: They simply don't have enough good relief pitchers. General manager Ruben Amaro (next to Charlie) did great in bringing in Halladay and Oswalt, but he left the team at least one man short in the bullpen. One more strong reliever and there's a strong chance the series is 2-2. For their sakes, with Halladay, (and possibly) Oswalt and Hamels still to come, maybe they won't need much relief.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments.