Instant Replay: Pitching to Manny
The big storyline entering the NLCS was how the Phillies would deal with blistering hot Manny Ramirez, who racked up an absurd .500 batting average in the NLDS against the Cubs.
So how'd they do? Not so great, despite Philadelphia's Game 1 win, because Ramirez is still batting .500 in the postseason.
With that in mind, we bring you the inaugural installment of Instant Replay, where we'll try to take a look at the minutia inside some key individual plays and matchups that help make baseball so special. What better place to start than dissecting how the Phillies pitched to Ramirez?
First Inning: Cole Hamels pitching with one out, Andre Eithier on first base.
-- Pitch One: Hamels delivers a 92 mile-per-hour, shoulder-high fastball which crosses Manny up and elicits a defensive swing. Strike one, and a good start.
-- Pitch Two: Hamels delivers another 92 mph fastball, but this one dips across the heart of the plate. Ramirez doesn't miss it, crushing it to the tip of the wall in deep center before it bounces back into play for a very long RBI double. If Ramirez had run hard after contact it probably would have been a triple.
Verdict: Not a good start for Hamels. The idea may have been a good one, following a high-and-tight fastball with one meant to cross the lower corner of the plate. Unfortunately for the Phillies ace, he just didn't execute. Advantage: Ramirez.
Third Inning: Cole Hamels pitching with one out, Andre Eithier on first base.
-- Pitch One: Hamels delivers an 82 mph changeup that misses low outside the strike zone to the right. Ramirez watches it for ball one.
-- Pitch Two: Hamels delivers another 82 mph change, which draws a low swing from Ramirez. Strike one.
-- Pitch Three: Hamels throws yet another changeup low in the zone, at 83 mph, which draws another frantic swing from Ramirez. Strike two.
-- Pitch Four: Hamels catches Ramirez waiting on a fourth-straight off speed pitch, jamming him high on the hands for a defensive pop out with a 93 mph fastball.
Verdict: A crafty mix by Hamels foils Ramirez, bringing confidence back to the Philadelphia pitchers. A strong response to Ramirez's very strong first at-bat. Advantage: Even Steven.
Fifth Inning: Cole Hamels pitching with two outs, no one on.
-- Pitch One: Hamels delivers a 91 mph fastball that misses low outside the strike zone. Ramirez watches it for ball one.
-- Pitch Two: Hamels brings in another 91 mph fastball low, but this pitch catches just enough of Ramirez's extended swing to produce a lazy pop that falls for a single in front of center fielder Shane Victorino.
Verdict: Ramirez proves that even with a well-located fastball, he can make enough contact to get the job done. Advantage: Ramirez.
Eighth Inning: Ryan Madson pitching with one out, no one on.
-- Pitch One: Madson delivers a 85 mph changeup low but in the zone, and Ramirez jumps out in front of it. He drives a lined shot directly at third base, where it's handled cleanly by third baseman Pedro Feliz.
Verdict: It's hard to tell whether Madson caught Ramirez off guard by starting with a changeup or wether Ramirez was waiting on a fastball and just got out in front of the resulting change and couldn't hold up. Either way, the shot was right at Feliz, who made a relatively simple clean play for a quiet out, at least by Ramirez standards. Advantage: Even Steven.
Of course, the Phillies got the last laugh on Thursday, taking Game 1 to set up a huge afternoon at Citizen's Bank Park on Friday at 4 p.m. Marc Carig will have much more about that for you as the day moves along. Another 2-for-4 outing from Ramirez, however, and the result might not be so kind to Philadelphia, whether at home or back at Chavez Ravine in Southern California.
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