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Flipping Utley, Polanco in lineup pays off

Flipping Utley, Polanco in lineup pays off

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel opted to alter his lineup for Game 2 of the National League Championship Series to prevent the Giants from having the opportunity to use one left-handed reliever to face both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in clutch late-inning situations.

The decision to sandwich Placido Polanco between Utley and Howard proved fruitful for the Phillies in Sunday night's 6-1 win over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. Polanco drove in a couple of clutch runs and Utley took advantage of the chance to record a pair of stolen bases that helped shape the first and seventh innings.

"I liked the way we played," Manuel said. "Utley looked good in the two-hole tonight. And he did a good job. Stolen bases were big."

With the Giants starting left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, Manuel separated his two left-handed sluggers (Howard and Utley) and allowed Polanco to sit in the three-hole -- a spot he manned for 19 games during the regular season.

Utley drew the first of the three first-inning walks issued by Sanchez and then stole second base before Mike Fontenot's throwing error put runners at the corners with just one out. Had there been two outs, the Giants hurler might have been more aggressive than he was during what evolved into an eight-pitch walk drawn by Howard.

Through the first four innings, the Phillies' lone run came courtesy of the bases-loaded first-inning walk drawn by Jimmy Rollins. Shane Victorino began the bottom of the fifth with a double and scored when Utley and Polanco followed with consecutive sacrifice flies.

"That's the type of ball you're probably going to play when you're facing teams with good pitching," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's the same with us. You try to score it any way you can, and that's why you'll see some small ball."

The Phillies gained some comfort with a four-run seventh inning that was fueled by small ball. Victorino's sacrifice bunt moved Roy Oswalt to second base with one out and led the Giants to intentionally walk Utley. Polanco responded by greeting right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez with an RBI single that gave the Phils a 3-1 lead.

Polanco's productive evening brought back postseason memories created four years ago. While playing for the Tigers in the 2006 American League Championship Series, the veteran infielder hit .529 (9-for-17) and tallied a pair of RBIs -- a total he has already matched in this NLCS.

"He did a good job tonight," Manuel said. "Of course, he singled in a run and he played a heck of a game. He can handle the bat good for us, and that's basically [what helped us get] the sac fly. That's exactly what we needed. Polly is that kind of hitter, and tonight, he got some situations where he could produce."

-- Mark Bowman

Boys and Girls Club of America

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