NEW YORK -- As Phillies manager Charlie Manuel contemplates how things might have proven different in this year's World Series, he won't concern himself with wondering what might have happened had he opted to bring Cliff Lee back on short rest in Game 4.
One of the primary reasons to send Lee to the mound on short rest would have been to set the stage for him to be able to return once again for what proved to be an unnecessary Game 7. As Manuel wonders why his club wasn't at least able to force a Game 7, his focus won't necessarily be on his suspect pitching staff. Instead, he'll have visions of the fact that his usually opportune offense was unable to take advantage of the many opportunities that the Yankees presented them over the course of the past week. "I give credit to some of the Yankees' pitching, but it seemed like our offense, when we had to really get down and get the big hits or we had to do things to kind of take them out of the game, it seemed like we couldn't do it," Manuel said. "We kind of sputtered a little bit." With that being said, maybe it was fitting that the Phillies went hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position during Wednesday night's 7-3 Series-clinching loss to the Yankees. After combining to hit .378 (25-for-62) with runners in scoring position during the first two rounds of this postseason, the Phillies hit just .250 in those situations against the Yankees. While this isn't a horrible output within a small sample size, the more telling figure might be the fact that the Phillies registered just four hits in the 28 at-bats they recorded with runners in scoring position during their four losses to the Yankees.
"At the same time, their left-handed pitchers, I felt like, did a good job on our left-handed hitting and stopped them, and that is a big part of our offense," Manuel said. While Chase Utley matched a World Series record with his five homers, the other powerful left-handed presence in the Phillies lineup, Ryan Howard, entered the offseason having just struck out a record 13 times in a Fall Classic. With Howard unable to establish the offensive dominance he displayed during the first two rounds of the postseason, the Phillies were forced to enter this offseason with the taste of disappointment that they'd eluded one year earlier, when they found themselves staging a World Series celebration. "When you play in the World Series, somebody is going home," Manuel said. "I don't know if I like it or not, because all of a sudden you play four out of seven and then you lose and someone tells you go home, the season is over. It seems like it's over real quick." Exactly one week after enjoying a Game 1 victory over the Yankees, Manuel and his players found themselves regretting lost opportunities and looking forward to the chance to begin a journey that they hope leads them to a third consecutive World Series appearance. "I told them go home and have a great winter and enjoy their holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'll see them in Spring Training with the idea -- our goal is to come back and play again, and hopefully we play the Yankees again," Manuel said.
Swing and a miss