He tried almost everything, and the Rockies still beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, 5-4, to even the best-of-five series. The loss snapped the Phils' eight-game postseason winning streak at Citizens Bank Park, and sent Philadelphia to Coors Field needing at least a weekend split to keep their season alive.
"Last year was a lot different than this year," said Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth, asked about the challenges his team faces in Denver. "We haven't done things all year the same way we did them last year. We're kind of a different team with a different identity, although we're still a really good baseball team. We've got a really good opportunity here in front of us. We've played well on the road all year. Hopefully we can keep that going."
The Phillies lost more than home-field advantage with Thursday's loss. They lost certainty with their rotation.
The Phillies used right-hander Joe Blanton and left-hander J.A. Happ in relief, which means Manuel could not name his Game 3 starter. Blanton threw just 19 pitches to five batters, so he said he could be ready to pitch Saturday. Happ threw just four pitches to one batter in the seventh inning, but he left the game after Colorado's Seth Smith hit him just below his left kneecap with a line drive.
X-rays were negative. The Phils said the leg is bruised.
Happ made it clear the leg is fine, while Pedro Martinez said he has been around long enough to know Game 3 is his to start.
The Phillies might not be facing such a situation had left-hander Cole Hamels carried some of his 2008 postseason magic into Thursday's start. But Hamels, who went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts last October to earn World Series and NL Championship Series MVP honors, allowed seven hits, four runs and one home run in just five innings.
He allowed a first-inning run before allowing a two-run home run to Yorvit Torrealba in the fourth inning to give the Rockies a 3-0 lead. It was Torrealba's first home run since May 6.
Hamels simply didn't look like his October self. Maybe he wasn't. Shortly after the Phillies pulled him from the game, he left the ballpark. His wife, Heidi, was in labor with their first son.
"It could have bothered him, yes," Manuel said.
The Phillies trailed, 4-0, when Blanton replaced Hamels to start the sixth.
"I definitely felt like we were still in the game, and I felt like we were going to have a run in us," Manuel said. "You've got to try to catch up."
The Phillies scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it 4-3. But Blanton, who threw a perfect sixth, allowed a leadoff double to Ryan Spilborghs in the seventh. Clint Barmes then bunted a ball to Blanton, who unsuccessfully tried to throw to third to get Spilborghs. It put runners on the corners with nobody out when Happ replaced Blanton and Smith ripped a ball off his leg to load the bases.
Left-hander Scott Eyre got out of the bases-loaded jam, with Dexter Fowler hitting a sacrifice fly with one out to score Spilborghs to make it 5-3.
"We were kind of taken back a little bit when both starters got used," Eyre said. "But nobody questions anything. We just do our job. He's done that most of the year. We saw [Chad] Durbin warm up in the second inning one day. He goes with who he thinks can get the guys coming up in the lineup out. There's no fault in that. He goes with what he feels."
"We were making use of just about everybody down there," said Brad Lidge, who was warming up to pitch the 10th if the Phillies had tied the game in the ninth. "It just shows how valuable every out is in the postseason."
Werth hit a solo homer to right field in the eighth to cut the lead to one, but the Phillies couldn't get closer.
So the Phils packed up and flew to Denver on Thursday. They were 48-33 on the road this season, which tied for the best road record in baseball.
"We've got to go win on the road, so when we come back we don't have to worry about playing a Game 5," Jimmy Rollins said. "We'll have to go show why we were one of the best teams on the road this year. For us, playing ball, it doesn't matter where we do it.
"Why do we play good on the road? I don't know. Maybe it's because we spend a lot more time together in the clubhouse, joking in the hotel as opposed to being home. We look forward to the challenge of always going to someone else's home and take their heart from them."