10/24/08 2:15 AM EST
Chess Match: Squeezing out a run
Maddon utilizes small ball; Manuel sticks with Feliz
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
It was a little of everything, too. At times the skippers played by the book, and at times they ignored the book. Some decisions showed a hands-off attitude, while some were very aggressive.
Like the game itself, the overall impression was a little bit of a mess at times but consistently interesting.
A little small ball
The situation: Runners on the corners, one out in the bottom of the fourth. Rays lead, 3-0, with No. 9 hitter Jason Bartlett at the plate.
The outcome: Bartlett's first attempt, a suicide squeeze with Cliff Floyd running on the pitch, went foul. His second, a safety squeeze with Floyd running on contact, was perfectly executed for the fourth run.
The analysis: It was certainly a curious decision in a three-run game. The Rays did get a single run on the play, but when Akinori Iwamura grounded out, the inning was over and a potential "crooked-number" outbreak went by the boards.
The comments: "I'm not going to talk about it. I mean, seriously, that's strategic. I don't want to be rude. I'm not being rude, hopefully. It's just something that we do, and it worked out really well." -- Maddon
Fine with Feliz
The situation: Runners on the corners, two outs in the top of the sixth. Phillies trail, 4-0, and the Rays call on reliever Dan Wheeler to face Pedro Feliz.
The outcome: Feliz grounded out to end the inning.
The analysis: The Phillies had the very dangerous Matt Stairs, who was only held out of the starting lineup because of his struggles against starter James Shields. So once a different right-hander was in the game, it was only natural to think it was a spot for Stairs. Feliz hit .239 with a .279 on-base percentage and a .357 slugging percentage against right-handers this year, while Stairs put up a .254/.349/.413 line.
However, there are a couple of caveats. One, Feliz has hit two home runs against Wheeler in seven career at-bats, and the Phils desperately needed a home run.
Second, Manuel has been extremely hesitant to pinch-hit for Feliz with anyone other than Greg Dobbs -- and Dobbs was already in the game as the designated hitter. The problem is that Manuel is unwilling to use Eric Bruntlett at third, because Bruntlett is his defensive replacement for Pat Burrell in left field. Of course, if that's the case, one wonders why So Taguchi is even on the roster, if he can't be used as a defensive replacement in left field.
The comment: "I didn't really think about pinch-hitting for Feliz. But if Feliz would have got on, I definitely would have put in Stairs for [Carlos] Ruiz. But, no, Feliz has gotten some real big hits for us. I thought he's been swinging OK. I was going to let him hit there." -- Manuel
Take it to the finish
The situation: Entering the ninth inning, rookie David Price has pitched 1 1/3 innings. The Rays lead by three, and Philadelphia brings the 9-1-2 spots in its batting order to the plate.
The outcome: Price finished off the game by striking out Chase Utley and getting Ryan Howard to ground out.
The analysis: Price is a special weapon for the Rays right now, and it's to Maddon's credit that he didn't reflexively think, "It's the ninth, got to go to a new pitcher now."
The comment: "He's been a starter, he's been stretched out. That's the difference with him than other relief pitchers, is the fact he's been stretched out. You feel comfortable with him going 40 pitches and not even blinking an eye." -- Maddon
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.