This season hasn't really offered opportunities to note Charlie Manuel's patience/loyalty/stubbornness/consistent lack of roster versatility which makes batting order shuffles a "Six One, Half Dozen The Other" proposition.
Then came today's lineup: exactly the same as it was in last night's 9-3 whupping.
The good news: Ryan Howard's left knee apparently isn't bothering him today, or at least not as much as Manuel is terrified of Delmon Young's fielding in Fenway Park's cavernous outfield. The bad: this is the same arrangement that features six of nine players with on-base percentages under .300.
Egregious as it sounds, there's merit to the strategy.
The Phillies did muster 15 baserunners last night -- only five fewer than the Red Sox. Best-case scenario: they capitalize tonight where they didn't 24 hours ago, offering Manuel a sliver of hope that they can be competitive without Chase Utley and Carlo- ... Chase Utley. Worst-case: they flop again, as they have all year anyway, and Manuel makes a switch to try to salvage the series split at CBP.
Knee-jerking just screams a panic that a team that (can't believe I'm saying this...) is still only three games under .500 and very much relevant in postseason considerations can't really afford.
It should be noted that, through 52 games, Manuel's ran with 36 permutations, only partly because of injuries/suspensions to Utley, Delmon Young, Carlos Ruiz, Ben Revere and Ryan Howard. He's tried and tried and done basically everything but hit Michael Young leadoff or Dom Brown higher than sixth. The manager's flexibility is commendable. His players' performance, less so.
Remember that today when you dial up sports talk radio calling for people's heads.
Cliff Lee (5-2, 2.48) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-5, 4.69) tonight in a 7:10 start time at Fenway before both teams fly to Philly to play tomorrow.