Small moves paying big dividends for Phillies

Small moves paying big dividends for Phillies

SAN FRANCISCO -- Charlie Manuel showed up at Citizens Bank Park at about 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, a little more than 10 hours before Roy Oswalt threw the first pitch in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

He studied a packet of statistics alone in his office.

Manuel already knew he wanted to flip Chase Utley and Placido Polanco in the Phillies' lineup, but he wanted to be certain. Once he combed the numbers and they verified his original thoughts, he penciled Utley to hit second and Polanco to hit third -- the ninth time this year he had done it -- to separate the left-handed-hitting Utley and Ryan Howard against Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.

It was a small move in a game that proved little things can turn into something bigger, like a 6-1 victory over the Giants to even the best-of-seven series.

Those little things could prove big again Tuesday in Game 3 at AT&T Park.

"It's an important element of these games because they're so tightly contested because of the quality of the pitching and the importance or the premium of just one run," Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's almost unfathomable to get a crooked number up there in an inning."

Utley walked and stole second with one out in the first, which put runners at the corners with one out after Polanco reached on an error. Only Sanchez knows if the error put a little extra pressure on him to be perfect, but he walked Howard to load the bases and walked Jimmy Rollins to score Utley to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

Philadelphia manufactured a run in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead.

Shane Victorino hit a leadoff double. Utley showed bunt on the first pitch from Sanchez before flying out to right field. Victorino scampered to third to leave him 90 feet from home plate. Polanco followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to score the go-ahead run.

Being patient at the plate. Taking the extra base. Moving the runner over. Stealing a base. Little things added up to a 2-1 lead.

"I'm not a big guy," Polanco said. "I'm not going to hit home runs, so I have to do those things. Ever since I signed, they've been telling me that: Do the fundamentals right. Bunt. Get a runner over. Drive him in. Handle the bat."

Polanco said he expects to hit second in Game 3 on Tuesday because the Giants have right-hander Matt Cain on the mound.

He said his approach will not change if he hits second, unless the situation demands it.

"The game is going to tell you what you have to do," Polanco said, referring to his sacrifice fly Sunday. "I was looking for a pitch I could drive. I got it. It was a fastball up and I was able to hit it far enough."

The Phillies blew open the game in the seventh, but it started again with small ball. Oswalt singled to center field and moved to second on a bunt from Victorino. Utley reached on an intentional walk. Polanco singled up the middle, which allowed Oswalt to score -- only because Oswalt blew through third-base coach Sam Perlozzo's stop sign.

But Utley and Polanco stole second and third to keep the pressure on. Three batters later, Rollins cleared the bases to give the Phillies a five-run lead.

Utley and Polanco were in the middle of everything Sunday, and it started with a simple switch in the order.

"Charlie has a good feel for that kind of stuff," Amaro said. "He's done it before. It does change a little bit of the nature of the game. That subtle kind of move can make a difference. That's why Charlie gets the big bucks."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.