Manuel: 'We Don't Put Anybody Away'
What do those teams have in common?
And that is what had Charlie Manuel so frustrated last night at Nationals Park. Sure, the Phillies scored five runs in the ninth inning — Matt Stairs snapped his 0-for-30 slump with a pinch-hit grand slam — to show some fight in a 9-8 loss to the Nationals, but they still lost to the worst team in baseball. And now their 8 1/2 game lead over the Marlins has turned into five with 24 games to play.
“We’ve been getting outplayed by second division teams,” Manuel said. “Our guys, especially the guys who were on our team the last couple years, know exactly what we’ve got to do. They know exactly how to get it. We’re playing right to the beat of basically who we’re playing. We’re just playing right with them. That’s how we played Pittsburgh. That’s how we played Houston. That’s how we played these guys. We were fortunate to beat (the Nationals) two out of three.
“We don’t put anybody away.”
Manuel and Jimmy Rollins talked about this just the other day.
“In a lot of ways I agree,” Rollins said. “There’s no doubt about it. But there are definitely times that we haven’t played down to our level of competition. I mean atmosphere and everything, not just the team. But it’s better to go on a bad stretch I guess against bad teams than against good teams. You do it against good teams you feel like, man, maybe we’re not good enough. Against bad teams it’s like, we’re just bad.”
I asked Rollins if there is any concern about letting their NL East shrink.
“Win by one,” he said. “There’s no pressure to win by 10. Win by one. We found that out a couple years ago. It doesn’t matter when we get there. You just hope to qualify and when you do qualify you hope to be playing your best. There’s no pressure to win by a certain amount of games because you have a lead. Win by one. That’s all it takes.”
But Shane Victorino said he doesn’t want things to get too close.
“We want to put ourselves in a situation where we still control our own destiny,” he said. “But yet we’re letting teams creep back in and giving them some kind of confidence. That’s the one thing that we fear. That we’re letting these teams have confidence. We shouldn’t let that happen.”
Here is another reason to get motivated for these final 24 games. The Phillies have the third-best record in the National League, which means they would open the NLDS on the road. If the season ended today, that would mean the Phillies and Dodgers would meet in the first round with the first two games at Dodger Stadium.
Brad Lidge pitched the eighth inning, when the Phillies trailed, 8-2. He allowed a triple, but struck out Pete Orr and Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning.