Photo via CTPost.com (Elise Amendola)
Even when the Phillies win, it seems we can find something to bicker about. Debating every decision made by a manager as a game is unfolding is one of the beauties of the game of baseball, and last night presented quite the situation for some. Cliff Lee, having thrown eight dominant innings and reaching a pitch count of 95 pitches thrown likely would have started the ninth inning nine times out of ten for manager Charlie Manuel. But Tuesday night in Boston Manuel played the sentimental hand and opted for his closer, Jonathan Papelbon, giving the former Boston Red Sox closer an opportunity to pitch for the first time in Fenway Park since leaving the Red Sox for the Phillies in the offseason between 2011 and 2012.
— Macho Row (@Macho_Row) May 29, 2013
Sending out Lee for the ninth inning would absolutely have been a fine call by Manuel, however it was not a wrong decision to go to Papelbon with a 3-1 lead in that situation either.
If I were the manager I would have sent Lee back out for the ninth inning, no questions asked. If Lee had struggled in the eighth inning I might reconsider, but it is Manuel's style to send a pitcher like Lee back out for the final inning more often than not. I would have also had Papelbon warming up just in case I needed him.
I admit that I may not be the most savvy when it comes to the sabremetrics of the game (although I respect and follow them far more than Ruben Amaro Jr. may), but I struggle to find any issue with sending out a multi-million dollar closer that has proven to be dependable in save situations in a 3-1 game on the road, regardless of what the starter had done before him. I do not even have as much of a problem with Manuel wanting to give Papelbon a chance to pitch in Boston again. It provides for a nice moment for Boston fans and Papelbon, and moments like that are good for the game. Is it over-managing? Perhaps it was in a sense.
Hindsight is always 20/20 of course. Had Papelbon struggled I would probably have been upset Lee did not start the ninth inning. Maybe Manuel got away with one last night. Either way, the Phillies left Boston splitting the first two games of a two-city, four-game series with a 3-1 victory. The series shifts to Philadelphia today for the first of two more games. The Phillies sit two games under .500 and 6.5 games back of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves.
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