Friday, October 10, 2008

Just a Little Patience

If Charlie Manuel had a plan for his hitters to get to Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe and his snake-level sinker in Game 1 of the NLCS, it probably was as simple as the good ol’ boy’s mannerisms: Patience, boys, patience.

And, boy, did Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell follow the Charlie manual perfectly.

Lowe cruised through the first five innings, allowing four hits and a walk. But something about the at-bats Howard and Burrell put together the first two times through the line-up gave a hint at things to come.

They patiently laid off Lowe’s out-of-the-zone sinker, making him work hard during each of their at-bats through four innings.

To that point, 14 Phillies had come to the plate, with Howard and Burrell combining for four of the 14 appearances (28%). However, they saw 25 of Lowe’s 57 pitches—a whopping 43% to just two hitters.

And it wasn’t because Lowe was loading up the pitch count on strikeouts; Howard had none and Burrell collected a single and a five-pitch strikeout.

The payoff to waiting out Lowe’s low balls came in the sixth. Lowe was tiring after throwing 75 pitches through five innings, and with the fatigue and the need to throw strikes, he wasn’t as fine with his location.

Suddenly—boom, home run on a sweet-spot pitch to Chase Utley, another home run to Burrell on a 3-1 pitch that had to be a strike, and just like that the home team was on its way to a 3-2 comeback win.

The same pitcher who had been 5-0 with an 0.85 ERA in his previous seven starts against the Phillies got the boot with one out in the sixth, down 3-2 after 90 pitches.

For the game, Howard averaged 5 pitches an at-bat, Burrell 6—both team highs by far. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, the top-of-the-order guys whose job is to work the pitcher, each saw just 3.25 pitches per at-bat.

Looks like they need to borrow Howard and Burrell’s Charlie manual.

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