Before the chalk dust settled at AT&T Park after the Giants' triumphant 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the 2010 National League Championship Series, the impact of this most memorable baseball game seemed to overwhelm the players, the fans, and even members of the baseball media.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval's heartfelt words shortly after the winning run scored in the bottom of the 9th inning on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Giants shortstop Juan Uribe: "I've got a lot of happy right now."
NLCS Game 4 was dominated by two dramatically contrasting levels of play: the San Francisco Giants fighting with pure adrenaline as Manager Bruce Bochy confidently pushed the attack with all his resources. And the Philadelphia Phillies, an exceptional team simply unable to overcome Manager Charlie Manuel's poor decision making and situational mismanagement.
The positive story of this game is the continuing ascent of the Giants through a tough and challenging season and post-season, and their colorful mix of home grown stars and players let go by various National and American League teams. But the story of how badly the Phillies were mismanaged in Game 4 is both compelling and confounding for a team that has owned the National League pennant three years in a row.
Among Manuel's numerous boots in this game, nothing compares to his inept management of the bottom of the 6th inning. The Phillies forced Giants rookie starter Madison Bumgarner out of the game in the top of the 5th inning, with two on and two out and the Giants leading 2-1. The Phillies then scored three more times and led 4-2. After the Giants scored a run in the bottom of the 5th inning, the score was 4-3 Phillies.
In the bottom of the 6th, Manuel brought in right hander Chad Durbin in relief of Jose Contreras. Durbin walked left fielder Pat Burrell and gave up a double to right fielder Cody Ross. Then up came third baseman Pablo Sandoval, no outs, runners at second and third.
How could Charlie Manuel have not been aware of the following: although Sandoval had a terrible 2010 season, with a .268 average, he hit much better from the left side of the plate against right-handed pitching (.282), than he hit from the right side against left handed pitching (.227). And, Sandoval hit much better at AT&T Park (.330) than on the road (.208). But for some reason Manager Manuel allowed the right hander Durbin to stay in the game and pitch to Sandoval. In the 6th inning of a must win playoff game with no outs, the tying run at third and the potential winning run at second base.
And, of course, Pablo Sandoval hit a double, driving in both Giant runs and retaking the lead 5-4.
In the Philadelphia bullpen sat two left-handed relievers, Antonio Bastardo and J. C. Romero. The argument against bringing in a lefty to turn Sandoval around to the right side is that you likely lose that left-hander after the Sandoval at bat, when the Giants would certainly pinch hit a right-handed hitter for the pitcher's spot. So you lose the lefty reliever after one at bat, and you might need him later. But this was later, later in the most critical game of the year in a situation where you use all your resources to keep the lead.
Another stand-out Charlie Manuel error occurred in the top of the 8th inning. Back to back doubles by Phillies Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth tied the game at 5-5. With Werth on second base representing the go-ahead run and no outs, Manuel elected to not have shortstop Jimmy Rollins sacrifice Werth to third, setting up a great scoring opportunity. Instead, Rollins hit away and Giants reliever Sergio Romo got him to pop up to third base. Then Romo struck out Phillies Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz.
A truly amazing moment in the 8th inning of the most important game of the year for Philadelphia.
Charlie Manuel's ineptitude takes nothing away from the what the Giants achieved in Game 4. If you know the game, you know well that opportunity is only half the equation; without execution there is no winning and the Giants won this game on their terms.
Having said that, if the much-feared Philadelphia sports media is not serving up roasted Charlie Manuel on a skewer in every newspaper and sports radio talk show today, I will have lost all respect for their exacting, negative, nasty reputation in the world of sports media.