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Lack of middle-relief help left Worley in tough spot

The SportsXchange

Without the benefit of having a camera stationed in the Philadelphia Phillies' dugout, it's difficult to discern whether manager Charlie Manuel's hand was trembling in the top of the sixth inning Friday night.

His starting pitcher, Vance Worley, was teetering on the brink of disaster. The right-hander, having already thrown in excess of 100 pitches, needed relief. And in the bullpen, there was none to be found. Manuel had no choice but to stick with Worley, who thanked his manager for his confidence by serving up a grand slam to San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Ballgame.

The Giants won, 7-2, with Crawford's blast serving as the difference in an otherwise-tight game. The Phillies tried to squeak another inning out of Worley, who had traipsed through five innings having allowed only one run. His final line -- six runs on six hits with nine strikeouts in six innings -- was tainted by the lack of 'pen depth for the Phillies.

"I think it's tough for me to throw one of the kids up there with bases loaded and a one-out situation in the game," Manuel said. "Right now, that's kind of tough. At the same time, I still felt like Worley had enough. I still felt like he was my best option.

The Phillies' bullpen is in shambles. No one can seem to get the ball to All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon. Of the two pitchers the team envisioned as setup men, one (Chad Qualls) was designated for assignment, while the other (Jose Contreras) is out for the season with an elbow injury.

Seventh-inning guys like Mike Stutes and David Herndon remain on the disabled list, where they've spent considerable time this season. And Antonio Bastardo has been unable to muster what made him so successful in 2011. Then there are Jake Diekman, Michael Schwimer and Joe Savery -- first- and second-year guys unable to establish consistency.

That's why Manuel stuck it out, allowing Worley to pitch to Crawford.

"I thought Worley could handle him," Manuel said. "I still liked him there. That was my thinking on it."

The decision made sense, with Worley having retired Crawford in two prior at-bats and Worley seemingly cruising at times. After allowing a single to the game's second batter, Worley set down 12 in a row into the fifth inning.

But because the Phillies are missing those links from the starter to the closer, they are having a difficult time picking up wins. Consider: They're 29-23 when the starting pitcher tosses more than six innings, which demonstrates Manuel's desire to push Worley a little further. And they're 12-29 when the starter goes six or fewer innings.

The Phillies, winners of five consecutive NL East division titles, need series victories in order to preserve their reign. But they're in last place, 11 games out of wild-card contention, and losing games like Friday's don't exactly help their cause.
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