Chess Match: Managing the pitchers

Chess Match: Managing the pitchers

LOS ANGELES -- A five-run first inning took a lot of the drama out of Sunday night's Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Still, it's not as though Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel could break out their rocking chairs after the first.

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There was still work to be done, and in fact, a few times the contest threatened to turn close. Here's a look at some of the managerial decisions that helped make the game what it was.

Stop the fight
The situation: After a disastrous five-run first inning, Jamie Moyer allows a leadoff homer in the second.


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The decision: Manuel let Moyer face lefty Andre Ethier, then lifted him after 1 1/3 innings.

The outcome: The Phils' bullpen turned in a superb performance, allowing just one more run over the final 7 2/3 innings. And only J.A. Happ could be considered out of commission for Game 4.

The analysis: You've read it in this space numerous times so far this October, but here it is one more time: It's different in the playoffs. You have to make the immediate move, worry about winning today, and forget about tomorrow. In fact, if there's any argument, it might be that Manuel waited too long, rather than acting too soon. If the Phils had managed some runs, they might have gotten back in the game.

The explanation: "He goes out in the second inning, gives up a home run to [Rafael] Furcal, and like it wasn't his night." -- Manuel

Let the kid pitch, redux
The situation: After rookie Cory Wade got out of a seventh-inning jam without incident, the Phillies bring their 9-1-2 hitters to the plate in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Chris Coste gets a hit, meaning the next two batters are switch-hitters, followed by lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.


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The decision: Torre never turned to a lefty, staying with Wade the whole way.

The outcome: Wade put them down without incident, with a strikeout, a popup and a groundout.

The analysis: Torre has a history of riding his most trusted relievers hard in October, and rightly so. It's the way you win games -- not worrying so much about roles and simply getting your best arms in there. The only issue is that it appears that Torre has little trust in anybody but Wade and Jonathan Broxton at this point.

As for the specific choices in the eighth, they made sense. To the extent that Jimmy Rollins has a platoon split -- and he has very little -- he's better against lefties. Shane Victorino is quite a bit better against lefties. And Utley has little split anymore.

If it had gotten to Ryan Howard, then a left-hander would certainly have been called for, but up to that point, Wade made sense.

There's only one option
The situation: The Dodgers go into the ninth inning with a five-run lead.


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The decision: Torre went straight to his closer, Broxton.

The outcome: Broxton allowed a single but no runs, and the game was over quickly.

The analysis: This made a lot of sense. For one thing, nobody cares about postseason saves, so the save rule should never factor into a decision in October. (Actually, it really should never factor into a decision in June, either, but that's a separate gripe.) Moreover, coming from an off-day Sunday, and with another off-day lurking on Tuesday, there was simply no reason not to go to Broxton. Get him the work; wearing him down isn't really a concern in a series structured like this one.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.