PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel sat in the dugout at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon and mused at length about subjects ranging from how well Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown has been hitting the ball lately to turkey hunting.
When the subject turned to injuries, though, the manager shrugged. Part of the game, he pointed out. And more often than not in the past, the Phils had players step in and do a decent job. That had certainly been the case with two rookies, right-handers Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd, who were called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley when first John Lannan and then Roy Halladay went to the disabled list.
Pettibone, in fact, became the first Phillies rookie to allow three or fewer earned runs in each of his first seven big league starts since Charles Hudson in 1983. Philadelphia was 6-1 when he pitched.
That streak ended abruptly in Thursday night's 9-2 loss to the Red Sox. Pettibone gave up four runs in the first inning alone. Even though he kept Boston from scoring after that in his five-inning start, he had never managed to retire the side in order.
Now, even Cy Young Award winners have an occasional off-night. One so-so outing is nothing to panic about. But there's also this. In Cloyd's first two starts, he allowed 10 hits in 13 1/3 innings and had a 2.70 ERA. Then, Monday at Fenway Park, he was hit hard, allowing six runs on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings. His next assignment is Saturday against the Brewres.
There are a few possible answers here. 1. That's baseball. 2. The hitters have begun to make adjustments and now the youngsters need to do the same. 3. Maybe a little bit of both.
Adding an element of intrigue as the Phillies continue to flirt with .500 is that veteran Carlos Zambrano is down in Clearwater, pitching for the Class A Threshers, trying to resurrect his career. He made his first start Tuesday and pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings.
While Manuel has been around long enough to avoid having a knee-jerk reaction to one game, he's also been around long enough to know the battle between hitters and pitchers is an ever-changing chess match.
"Yeah, they'll make adjustments on you, good hitting teams," Manuel said. "Like [Thursday] night. Boston was patient with Jonathan. They definitely made him pitch. They didn't get in a hurry, they made him pitch."
Pettibone also noticed that the Red Sox hitters were being patient, but had a different takeaway.
"I was trying to pound some of those lefties in, to [David] Ortiz and [Jacoby] Ellsbury and [Daniel] Nava. I was being too fine and they were being passive," he said. "The ones that weren't for strikes were called balls and that's when I kind of fell behind. That didn't help me. Falling behind, trying to be too picky. I kind of got away from being aggressive."
And there was at least one occasion, the 22-year-old admitted, that his relative inexperience may have been a factor.
Ellsbury and Nava opened the first with ground-ball singles that left runners on first and third. Ellsbury scored when Dustin Pedroia grounded out to the right side. Ortiz walked and Mike Carp singled to drive in Nava. Stephen Drew struck out. Pettibone was an out away from limiting the damage. But Jarrod Saltalammachia doubled on the first pitch to give Boston a 4-0 lead.
"An 0-0 changeup," Pettibone said. "It was just up in the zone. We even talked about it before the game, to throw a changeup for a ball there. But there were so many things running through my head at the time, I completely forgot and just kind of left it up in the zone and he was able to put a good swing on it and two runs came in."
He's been around long enough now for hitters to begin compiling a book on him, but Pettibone doesn't believe that was an issue.
"I haven't faced these guys, so I don't think that's really the question," he said. "I think it was just not really being aggressive and not finishing the hitters at the right times. Getting hurt with the two-out double. I think that's the biggest key."
After the first inning, Pettibone thought he made some better pitches.
"But still not anywhere near great," he said, mentioning that he walked four in five innings.
Lannan and Halladay won't be back for awhile, so the Phillies need Pettibone and Cloyd to pitch well. And, in the meantime, the front office will be keeping an eye on Zambrano.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.