11/02/09 8:08 PM EST
Who was on third for Phils? Nobody
Inability to cover base a breakdown of fundamentals
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Jimmy Rollins said he forgot to tell Lidge it was him.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and third-base coach Sam Perlozzo discussed the play that set in motion a killer 7-4 loss Sunday night to the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series. Damon stole second base with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and wisely ran to third with nobody covering third base as the Phillies had a defensive shift toward right field for Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.
"Every year we go to Spring Training and when we go over our fundamentals and bunt plays and things like that, we might spend five minutes on that at the most," Manuel said. "We might talk about it two times. That's the first time I've seen that play happen against us since I've been here. Damon was heads up. I said there was a miscommunication. If you're going to play the game the right way ... that's kind of an instinct play. That's where you've got to be heads up in the game.
"You've got to know where you've got your defense set and who's going to cover third. Most of the time that's the pitcher. But I'll be very honest with you, if we're going to go over it, if we're going to discuss it every day, for me, [catcher Carlos] Ruiz is going to cover third because he's faster than Lidge and he's a better fielder and things like that. He would be the guy that I would say, 'Go cover third base.'"
Perlozzo, who is the team's infield instructor, also said the Phillies had not discussed that play much this season.
"We haven't had to address the issue of the third baseman taking the throw because we've never done it," Perlozzo said.
Perlozzo said if there was a problem with the play it was that nobody notified Lidge or Ruiz of their responsibilities.
Perlozzo said the Damon play has been overblown because even if Damon had been on second base he still would have been able to score on a single or double. Of course, the theory has been that with Damon on third, Lidge would not throw his slider for fear of a ball getting behind Ruiz.
Both Manuel and Perlozzo dismissed that.
"I think that's a bunch of bull," Perlozzo said. "He's been all year long with a man on second, a man on third."
Some have wondered if Rollins could have taken the throw from Ruiz at second, but he was positioned too far away from the bag. The Phillies had never played Rollins over that far, and it remains a mystery why Rollins was shaded more toward right field.
Rollins told Perlozzo if he had taken the throw and the ball had been hit it would have defeated the purpose of the shift, so he let Feliz take the throw. He said Rollins told him that at that point he realized he didn't have time to tell Lidge or Ruiz to go to third.
"We've shifted all year long, but Pedro might be at short," Perlozzo said. "And anytime the throw went to second, Pedro goes straight to third to protect that."
Perlozzo said he saw the possibility of Damon running to third as Lidge threw his first pitch to Teixeira, but he said because of the crowd noise his warnings could not be heard.
"Third! Third! Third!" Perlozzo shouted from the dugout.
Nobody heard him.
"But the big thing in the inning was A-Rod's hit," Manuel said of Rodriguez's double that scored Damon.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.