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Phils need to play small ball, not wait for homers

Carlos Ruiz is called safe at home plate in the fourth inning of Monday's blowout win. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz is called safe at home plate in the fourth inning of Monday's blowout win. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

THIS IS THE WAY Old Charlie skippers, waving the longballs home. Giving 3-0 green lights to everybody, including Cliff Lee.

You can take the man out of the American League, but you can't take the American League out of the man.

This is the way the old Red Devil directs, sneering at the sacrifice (Phils are 12th in the NL) - unless it is a long fly ball - nixing the suicide squeeze, preferring the hit-and-home-run to the hit-and-run.

Old Charlie was long gone Sunday by the time too-long reliever David Herndon IP'd his way into the baseball record book with a 3 2/3-inning performance that should have been filmed in jittery black-and-white and put in Hollywood's three-reel archives alongside "The Perils of Pauline" and any Mack Sennett chase scene.

Play Calliope music in the background . . .

Labor Day came early for the pitching staff's official javelin catcher. Saturday night, Herndon served a trio of hanging eighth-inning whatevers while asked to protect a 4-3 lead after Antonio Bastardo walked the first two hitters. At stake, a Cole Hamels win.

David Herndon in a hold role with two on, nobody out?

The Phillies were down 8-4 faster than you could say, "Get a couple of Sherpas out to bring down those jet-stream scrapers rattling around in the empty seats."

Sunday, he was the last arm standing in extra innings after the bullpen-deprived Phils once again blew a late lead when rookie Michael Schwimer gave up the tying run in the bottom of the seventh.

For the next 6 2/3 innings, with the ejected Charlie Manuel either practicing telepathy or trying to find a good BlackBerry connection, the Fish put on a stranded-runners clinic. For their part, the Phillies went after scalded line drives like Frisbee-tracking whippets during an NFL halftime.

The Marlins left the bases loaded in the seventh . . .

With two outs in the 11th and first base open, Herndon issued his first intentional walk. Dodged the bullet.

First and third, one out in the 12th, he intentionally walked Emilio Bonifacio, loading the bases. Omar Infante fouled out. Raul Ibanez made a circus catch on a Greg Dobbs sinking liner.

Bottom 13, two on, one out, more four-play. Herndon IBB'd Bryan Petersen. Sacks drunk, but the Marlins shot two more blanks. They had stranded 15 runners by then after tying it in the seventh.

Despite all the intentionals, Herndon had decent control. But with his pitch count pushing 60, the somber sinkerballer drifted into the uncharted waters of his fourth inning of work by walking Bonifacio. Sac'd to second . . . Crank up the carousel.

Intentional pass to Dobbs. Rich Dubee came out to discuss the executive decision of the wacky game. Walk dangerous lefty power hitter Logan Morrison to load the bases? And face Cameron, who hit the second moonshot off Herndon the night before?

Four fingers . . .

The 3-2 pitch to Cameron wasn't close. Game over. Let the second-guessing begin.

Some folks want to know why the Phillies didn't bring in a handful of IronPigs and Reading Phils for such an emergency. Come on, people. Both Lehigh Valley and Reading were fighting for playoff spots. You wanted to screw those teams to try to win a mostly meaningless game, the loss of which left the Phillies nine games up on the Braves in the East loss column, nine up in the LC on the Brewers for homefield.

Maybe a little more onus could have been aimed at Chase Utley, in a near-Mendoza Line funk the past month and a career single game-worst 0-for-7 Sunday. Or Hunter Pence, who stranded a fistful of runners.

Maybe Manuel should not have made such a federal case out of crew chief Joe West's no-brain decision to review the egregious interference by a Phillies fan on a Pence ball that clearly hit the yellow line under the railing in right.

Roy Halladay, not sharp as it was, sat in the heat and humidity while Manuel was ejected and then prolonged the process by sending word to Cowboy Joe the Phillies were playing the game under protest. In the bottom of the sixth, the scuffling ace gave up a run on three consecutive two-out singles . . . And that's not Doc.

It is not hard to notice that Charlie's favorite weapon, the home run and lots of 'em, is way down throughout baseball this year. Whatever, the Phillies are seventh in homers and runs scored, eighth in extra-base hits and 11th in stolen bases.

They are more like Murdered Row than Murderer's Row. And as the no-longer larruping lads learned last October, when the days have dwindled down to a precious few, runs become more and more difficult to come by.

The conundrum, of course, is whiplashing a breezing squad into Littleball mode after a season of doing it the way Charlie likes to do it. I am reluctantly in agreement with the growing concern over Utley's diminished production. Maybe it's time to consider easing Pence into the No. 3 hole and putting Ibanez and John Mayberry behind Ryan Howard.

Utley hit in the No. 2 hole often when Charlie was lineup tinkering.

Time to tinker again, play some National League baseball the rest of the way . . .