CHARLIE MANUEL wrote out a lineup card on Thursday afternoon that included three guys who began the season at Triple A, light-throwing Juan Pierre in left and the not-so-nimble Laynce Nix in center. The result was a defensive effort that had the Phillies flirting with disaster in the first half of the game.
Already down a starting catcher and Gold Glove centerfielder, Manuel chose to rest his two sure-handed infielders, too.
Giving Placido Polanco a day off was understandable, given Kevin Frandsen's inspired play this month. Resting slumping Jimmy Rollins on the same day, well, it was a chance Manuel was willing to take with his best pitcher on the mound.
The problem, of course, is unless Cole Hamels is striking every batter out, he needs a reliable defense behind him. Hamels, who allowed his share of hard hit balls, did not have that Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.
But the Phils made up for a not-so-reliable defense with a late-arriving offense and a sturdy effort from its young relief corps.
After getting blanked for the game's first five innings, the Phillies rallied to tie the game in the eighth and won it in walk-off fashion in the 11th, when John Mayberry Jr. punched a run-scoring hit through the left side of the infield.
The 4-3 victory helped the Phils salvage a split in a four-game series with Cincinnati, the second best team in the National League. Coupled with a loss from the free-falling New York Mets, the Phils' victory moved them into sole possession of third place for the first time since April 12, after the sixth game of the season.
The win came 264 minutes after the first pitch was thrown.
"I felt like I've been in a fight and lost," Manuel said. "I feel drained. Really. I kept waiting for somebody to come home."
It should be noted that, when the game ended, Manuel had Rollins back at shortstop (he entered in the sixth inning), John Mayberry Jr. in center (he pinch hit for Nix in the eighth) and that the Phillies only found themselves playing into the wee hours of the night because their early game defense assisted the Reds offense.
The defense factored in all three runs the Reds scored.
After Hamels walked Ryan Ludwick to load the bases in the first, he was still in position to pitch out of trouble when Todd Frazier hit a ground ball to third. But Frandsen, who made a sensational play that included gunning down the lead runner at home 2 nights earlier, threw to first Thursday, allowing the game's first run to score.
Hamels, who got another ground ball to end the inning one batter later, threw his hands up after Frandsen threw to first.
"He might have got a little testy - but he's usually not that way," Manuel said.
Hamels said his anger stemmed from starting a game just before a downpour and not because of the defense behind him.
"Ultimately, my job is to pitch and make the best pitches and try to limit runs," Hamels said. "The only thing I was really frustrated about was starting a game when you know it's going to rain.
"I've seen it numerous times. We have things called radar detectors - if you can't read them correctly, I don't know what's going on."
Hamels dodged the raindrops and went on to retire 12 of the 14 batters he faced from the second inning through the fifth. But in the sixth, Hamels repeated his first inning in allowing hits to each of the first two hitters.
The second ball, however, was only ruled a hit because shortstop Michael Martinez played it like the ball was a bull and his glove was a matador's red cape. Although Ludwick put some lumber on it, sending it through the infield in warp speed, it was hit directly at Martinez.
Frazier, the next batter, hit a Hamels pitch where no one could catch it. Frazier ripped a two-run double over Nix's head to the warning track in center, where Nix let the ball bounce off the wall and roll right through his legs.
The Phils' faulty defense was excused by stellar work from a young bullpen. Five relievers, including rookies B.J. Rosenberg, Jeremy Horst and Phillippe Aumont each threw shutout innings in relief of Hamels.
In his major league debut, Aumont threw a scoreless eighth inning before the Phils rallied to tie the game on a Jimmy Rollins' sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning.
"Our bullpen did a good job tonight," Manuel said.