What was most confusing about Charlie Manuel’s post game press conference last night was the chuckles.
He smiled, he answered questions, he read the lineup; probably mispronounced a word or two. But when he chuckled, he seemed to indicate the idea that preceded his actions was laughable; impossible; ridiculous.
Let’s back up for a moment. The Phillies lost their lead last evening when Antonio Bastardo entered the game. Not literally when he entered – that would be insane. But about 60 seconds after he entered the game and threw his second pitch, Joey Votto quite easily took him deep.
This put the Phillies in a 3-3 stalemate, and required them to **gasp** score more runs to win the game. How would they do this? Was a miraculous comeback victory in the works?
It was through a Michael Young walk, a Ryan Howard swinging bunt, a Delmon Young HBP, a Domonic Brown reached-on-error, and a blown call at the plate by the umpire that the Phillies quite involuntarily took a two run lead and wound up winning the game.
So let’s zero in on what Charlie was talking about – Howard’s bunt. For years and year, we’ve asked: What if Howard responded to the shift by bunting away from it?
“Just once,” even people smarter than me have wondered out loud. “I’d like to see him try it.”
He never did. And I’m sure it was never considered. After all, he’s a power hitter. Lord knows he can’t do anything but hit for power up there. Or, you know. Strike out humiliatingly.
Last night, we saw what happened. The bunt even caught Howard off guard. But he reached, bum ACL and all. He was aided by the infielder not successfully getting the ball out of his glove, but it was a success, and indicated at least a few times in the future, were he to try it again, he might get away with it. Other teams must be so ingrained with him not even considering a bunt that they hesitate in shock.
But Charlie nipped that in the bud last night, suggesting “That’s how you beat the shift.” Then laughing and making sure everyone knew he was kidding.
“Some people think you might be serious right now,” one reporter suggested.
“Actually, if he’d get a bunch of hits, I would be serious,” Manuel replied, his finger twisting in his ear.
“No,” Charlie said with another laugh. “No.”