SAN FRANCISCO -- For all the second-guessing Phillies manager Charlie Manuel endured for his decision to hand the ball to Joe Blanton in Game 4, Blanton left his outing having achieved his primary goal. He walked from the AT&T Park mound to the visiting dugout knowing he was handing over a lead.
Blanton's outing didn't necessarily quiet the skeptics, who will still contend that the Phils would have had a better chance to win Wednesday's contest by pitching Roy Halladay on short rest. But the 29-year-old Blanton didn't flop, either.
Making his first start since Sept. 29 and his first appearance since tossing an inning of relief on Oct. 3, Blanton did well enough, despite a shaky start. He had no one to blame but himself for his first-inning trouble, as he twice advanced Freddy Sanchez on wild pitches.
"Both of them, I just buried them too much," Blanton said.
That put Sanchez in position to give the Giants an early 1-0 lead on Buster Posey's two-out single.
Another two-out hit from Posey cost Blanton a run in the third. But when the righty jogged to the mound two innings later, he did so with a 4-2 lead.
Any manager would cringe with what happened next -- Blanton issued a leadoff walk to Andres Torres -- and the Giants didn't let Blanton get out of that inning unscathed either. They used another two-out hit -- this one from Aubrey Huff -- to cut the deficit to one.
"I felt like I gave a couple of runs away, especially the last inning," Blanton said. "We had just had a big inning and I took that lead and walked the first guy. Give them some credit -- they got some good two-out hits. Just give them credit for battling."
Huff would be the last batter Blanton faced. Even though the righty stood just one out away from ending the inning, Manuel made the decision to take the ball from the hands of his starter. Blanton had thrown only 63 pitches to that point, but afterward he refused to second-guess Manuel's early hook.
"It's a situation where we're down, 2-1 [in the series]," Blanton said. "Maybe in the regular season, it's a different story, or maybe if we're up 2-1, it's a different story. In a do-or-die situation, you have to do whatever you can to try and win."
Manuel's move worked, as Huff ended the inning still on first.
Blanton's serviceable start was enough to keep the Phillies in the game. However, it wasn't sufficient in keeping Manuel from being asked again about his decision not to lean on Halladay in such a pivotal game. And if the Phillies don't find a way to reel off three straight wins, this will be a debate that Philadelphians will likely engage in all winter.
Yet unwaveringly, Manuel once more stood by his decision when the pointed questions came his way during the postgame news conference.
"I think I answered it for how many days now?" Manuel said. "I mean, we pitched him today. We pitched Blanton. And actually we had a chance to win the game. Blanton had a lead when he left."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.