In the top of the seventh inning of the Phillies’ 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night, the Phillies had runners on first and second with two outs and Carlos Ruiz at the plate.

Recognizing this, the Cardinals elected to have pitcher Jaime Garcia work around Ruiz, walk the bases loaded, and go after pitcher Joe Blanton hitting in the ninth hole.

Keep in mind that at this point the score was only 1-1.

Ruiz walked after five pitches, and, to the dismay of every Phillies fan watching, Blanton came up to the plate to work against the left-handed Garcia. Needless to say, Blanton struck out, the Phils left three guys on base, and eventually went on to lose the game after Blanton fell apart in the seventh and eighth innings.

So why didn’t Charlie Manuel pinch hit for Blanton in that spot?

The offense has been lethargic, to put it nicely, and even a single would have gotten them at least two runs and a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.

One reason is the lack of options on the bench. With Ben Francisco playing left field for Raul Ibanez, the only righty available was Wilson Valdez. Valdez hasn’t exactly been great this year, but he’s certainly been hitting better than Blanton and quite obviously gives them a better chance at scoring some runs.

Another reason is the limited amount of time a new pitcher would have had to get warmed up, considering there were already two outs in the inning.

But, again, that’s Manuel’s fault. He should have realized what the Cardinals were doing while Ruiz was at the plate and got someone up in the bullpen. And if Valdez is able to come through, that gives the guy in the bullpen plenty of time to be loosened up.

Even if the guy Manuel called upon wasn’t loose, he still probably couldn’t have done any worse than Blanton did after that, as Blanton gave up three more runs and turned the ball over with a 4-1 deficit in the eighth inning.

To me, it looked like Manuel has fallen into the same slump as his team and is making conservative decisions in an effort to avoid a loss, rather than being aggressive and going for the win.

Anyone watching Blanton this year knows he’s worthless after six innings, so it was the perfect time to put him on the bench, give him an “atta-boy” for six solid innings, and hand the ball off to, ideally, Ryan Madson.

So now that Manuel has joined in on the bonehead mistakes, the Phils have essentially assured their fans one miserable October.


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