NEW YORK - The Phillies sent Geoff Jenkins, a lefthanded hitter, to the plate. The Mets countered by bringing in a lefthander from their bullpen, Pedro Feliciano.
Now the Phillies had a choice to make. They had two righthanded bats left on the bench: Eric Bruntlett and So Taguchi.
Manager Charlie Manuel would laughingly admit later that he's not sure who he would have chosen to bat there in the top of the ninth, with the bases loaded and nobody out and a run in, still trailing, 5-3.
But Manuel had been kicked out of the game a couple of hours earlier. So it was bench coach Jimy Williams who told Taguchi to grab a bat and see what he could do.
Winning teams need to get contributions from everybody, but there couldn't have been a more unlikely hero last night at Shea Stadium than Taguchi, who fell behind 0-2 . . . and then choked up and doubled over the head of rightfielder Endy Chavez to tie the score.
The Phillies went on to score a total of six runs in the inning for a you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it 8-6 win over the Mets.
Taguchi laughed out loud afterward when told that, prior to that, he had been 0-for-16 as a pinch-hitter this season.
"I didn't know that," he said, grinning widely. "I wasn't counting. But I'm very happy to finally get a hit."
Taguchi opened the season as the Phillies' top pinch-hitter. That was the skill that convinced the Phillies to pay $900,000 to sign him as a free agent this season. The evidence was right there on the stats sheet.
In 2007, he led all big-league players with a .406 pinch-batting average. And he reached base safely in 16 of his final 30 pinch appearances.
That was then. This year Taguchi had played himself into the margins. He was often a last resort to pinch hit. Since the All-Star break, Manuel had taken to using Bruntlett - normally an infielder - as a defensive replacement for Pat Burrell in left.
Buried at the far end of the bench, he had only nine at-bats since the end of May before his big, and somewhat surprising, opportunity last night.
"Use the roster. Use them all. You've got to have faith in all of them," Williams said when asked to explain his thought process. "He had a great at-bat for us."
Manuel, who was watching the game from the small, cinderblock cubicle that serves as the visiting manager's office, could only shake his head.
"So had a heckuva at-bat," he said. "He fouled off a couple pitches. The guy kept throwing him away, away, away. The rightfielder was playing in a little bit, and he hit it right over his head."
Asked if this would increase his confidence in Taguchi, Manuel nodded. "Of course," he said. "I've always known So can hit. At the same time, he needs to play. But it's hard to get him time with our outfield situation."
Manuel said that he and Williams always discuss moves before they're made. "We don't always agree," he said. "I can't tell you for sure I'd have used Taguchi. A lot of times it's a feel, a hunch.
"It turned out to be the right choice. That was a heckuva move." *