Charlie Manuel managed (literally) an interesting exacta last night. He outfoxed the deeply respected skipper in the opposing dugout, Joe Torre, and he outcoached his Philadelphia peer working on the opposing coast, Andy Reid.
Manuel's Phillies outscored Torre's Dodgers, 11-0. And they outscored Reid's Eagles, 11-9, even without the benefit of a double-deluxe Wildcat package.
Don't look now, but it is the second year in a row that the lightly regarded (by many) Manuel has out-managed the likely Hall of Fame-bound Torre. Of course, in this and most other cases, managing can be best defined as "has the better pitching."
For the second time in three games, Torre chose a starting pitcher based on intuition and good intentions. For the second time, it blew up in his face. Manuel, meanwhile, wrote "Cliff Lee" next to "Game 3 starter." It's a safe bet Manuel enjoyed the game a lot more than Torre did.
But it's not fair to either manager to reduce his role entirely to calligraphy. Both Manuel and Torre are baseball lifers, and both are now World Series-winning managers. It's just that Torre is revered as a kind of guru of the game, and Manuel is still subject to a lack of respect when one of his moves doesn't work.
In this series, Manuel is getting the better of Torre. Because of that, the Phillies find themselves in excellent position not only to win the pennant, but also to wrap it up without another flight to Los Angeles.
Torre decided to start Hiroki Kuroda last night after watching the righthander throw in Arizona last week. Kuroda, who pitched well against the Phillies in the playoffs last year, threw a simulated game to test his injured neck. He looked good, so Torre chose him over Randy Wolf or Chad Billingsley.
Well, Game 3 was neither simulated nor played in Arizona. In the 46-degree weather, Kuroda took a pounding from a Phillies lineup that had marinated for 48 hours in the bitter juices of a blown Game 2. The Phillies were ready to take it out on someone, and Kuroda was handy.
Billingsley went into the game in the second inning and restored order for a few innings before being touched for a couple of pile-on runs in the fifth.
Based on his regular season - not to mention his two losses to the Phils in last year's National League Championship Series - Billingsley might not have been the safest choice, either. That's a fair point. But listen to Torre describe the fine art of decision-making, especially when it pertains in the postseason.
"I think knowing your people is very important," he said. "You know, to me the manager is supposed to know where his players are on a regular basis. And when I say that, I don't mean if they're home or away. I'm just talking about in their mind and in situations, and you know their personality."
Billingsley seemed a tad more ready to pitch than Kuroda.
In Game 1, Torre took the chance that 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw would step into the postseason spotlight and deliver a great performance. The Phillies rocked him hard, and now Kershaw will face Cole Hamels again in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Depending on what happens tonight, that could be an elimination game for L.A.
As for tonight, Torre will rely on Wolf, the kind of crafty lefthander who can cause problems for the Phillies' left-leaning lineup. The former Phil, a 33-year-old with a surgically repaired left shoulder, can beat his former team, but there's no reason for them to fear him.
Meanwhile, Manuel has played them all just right. Even though Hamels hit a bad patch in Game 1, he was right for that assignment. The decision to go with Pedro Martinez in Game 2 looked brilliant for seven shutout innings.
Manuel might have overmanaged in the eighth inning of Game 2. But it is partly to his credit that his team remains loose and confident when adversity hits. and that it responded with an outburst that made Game 3 one long roast of Manny Ramirez.
"We live in the moment around here," rightfielder Jayson Werth said. "You hear Charlie say it a lot, that we're resilient, and I really think we are. We come to play hard every day. We have a good vibe and a positive outlook."
That starts with Manuel.
Torre was a good manager when he was winning titles with the Yankees, and he was a good manager with the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals - all of whom fired him. Torre's also a good manager with the Dodgers, who had the best record in the National League this year.
Don't look now. Torre is 2-6 against Manuel in the last two Octobers. And Andy Reid isn't doing much better.