IN A SPRAWLING, late-season interview in which Charlie Manuel dissected his thought process when trying to build a better lineup, the conversation inevitably worked itself around to the issue of protecting cleanup hitter Ryan Howard.
The Phillies' manager talked about having a bat behind him and the impact of having speedy runners on base ahead of him. Ultimately, though, he said it all comes down to Howard himself.
"You get back to the point of Ryan being patient and Ryan not chasing bad balls and things like that," he said. "A lot of times I think Ryan's thinking is, 'I want to knock this guy in' or 'I have to knock this guy in.' And he'll chase a bad ball. If he's chasing and swinging at bad balls, it doesn't matter who you have behind him.
"If he stays on the ball and follows the ball, he's going to be pretty good. I think he'd be a better hitter by being more patient and next year he may be all that. But he's still dangerous in the fact that if he does follow the ball good and he hits it, he can hurt you. Because they've got to make up their mind. Like the Cardinals with [Albert] Pujols. We've got to make up our mind, do we want to try to get him to chase? Or do we just want to put him on and go to the next guy?"
In the first two games of the NLDS, Howard has not only shown patience in clutch situations, but done some damage.
According to baseball-reference.com, Howard batted just .217 after reaching a full count this season and struck out 38 times in 83 at-bats (45.8 percent).
In the first inning of last night's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals, however, he came up with the bases loaded and nobody out against St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter. He worked a 3-2 count and then delivered a two-run single up the middle.
In the sixth inning of Game 1 on Saturday night, Howard drilled a three-run homer to get the Phillies back into the game on a 3-2 changeup from Kyle Lohse.
Patience, it seems, really can be a virtue.
What it means
The series is now tied, but after being pounded in the opener, the Cardinals have to feel pretty good about their chances.
Not only do they have homefield advantage, but they have lefthander Jaime Garcia waiting to pitch tomorrow. Garcia had an 0.60 earned run average in two starts against the Phillies this season and is 2-1, 1.20 lifetime against them.
Cole Hamels will start for the Phillies. He gave up four earned runs in seven innings at Citizens Bank Park in his only appearance against the Cardinals this year and is 2-3, 3.27 lifetime. He did, however, make one of the more impressive starts of his career at Busch Stadium. On a broiling afternoon last year, he shut out the Cardinals on one hit through eight innings.
The Cardinals' bullpen. After ace starter Chris Carpenter lasted only three innings and gave up four runs, the relievers - Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Arthur Rhodes, Jason Motte - shut out the Phillies on one hit for the final six innings.
Cliff Lee's reputation as an unbeatable playoff pitcher has taken, well, a beating. After being staked to a quick 4-0 lead last night, he ended up lasting just six innings and taking the loss.
In his last three postseason games, including a pair of starts in the World Series for Texas last season, he's 0-3 with a 7.13 earned run average.
Did you notice? *
That after giving up a leadoff triple in the first and a leadoff double in the second, Cliff Lee not only pitched out of trouble but did it without the Cardinals getting another ball out of the infield?
* That when Lee struck out Yadier Molina and Ryan Theriot looking in the second, both Cardinals hitters were unhappy with plate umpire Jerry Meals and openly expressed their disagreement?
* That Molina and Theriot weren't the only ones who disputed Meals' strike zone. Albert Pujols took a long look over his shoulder at the umpire after being called out in the top of the fifth and Chase Utley had sprinted nearly halfway to first in the bottom of the inning before being rung up?
* That Lee gave up more earned runs in the fourth inning last night (three) than he gave up in the 24 1/3 NLDS and NLCS innings he pitched for the Phillies (two) in 2009?
Both sides now
Hunter Pence started the season with the Houston Astros, who ended up losing 106 games. He finished with the Phillies, who finished with a franchise-record 102 wins.
That got Clem Comly, a pressbox pal and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), wondering how many players had been with both a 100-win and 100-loss team in the same season. And it was more than might have been expected.
Through 2010, he found 45 men who had personally experienced those highs and lows in one year. From 1999 through 2010, it only happened twice: Carlos Pena (Oakland and Detroit) and Jeff Weaver (Yankees and Detroit), both in 2002. Nine players did it in 1961. It happened to Hall of Famer Herb Pennock (Philadelphia Athletics and Red Sox) in 1915.
The only 19th-century player was Philadelphia native Harry Stovey in 1892, with the Boston Beaneaters and Baltimore Orioles. Stovey was an interesting guy. When he retired a year later, he was baseball's all-time leader in home runs (122) and stolen bases (509).
Baseball teams normally leave immediately after a game is completed to fly home or to the next city. And that's what the Cardinals were planning to do after Game 2 of the NLDS last night at Citizens Bank Park.
That changed when Major League Baseball pushed back the scheduled first pitch to 8:37 p.m. after the first game of the Tigers-Yankees ALDS matchup had to be suspended by rain, meaning there were three games yesterday instead of two.
When that happened, the St. Louis traveling party decided to stay at its Center City hotel an extra night and return this morning. The Phillies had planned to leave today all along.