Ryne Sandberg suffered a 4-0 loss in his debut as Phillies manager. (AP)
Baseball doesn’t stop. Not ever. So even on a day as emotional as Friday was at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies had to get back to work.
Baseball doesn’t stop.
“All things come to an end,” Jimmy Rollins said after the Phillies’ 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night, the team’s first game without manager Charlie Manuel since 2004 (see Instant Replay).
“It was different. My brother-in-law clued me in earlier and told me about the presser and then Chase (Utley) hit me and said, ‘You might want to get in.’ I got dressed. I knew what it was at that point.”
Manuel was fired on Friday afternoon before the Phillies dropped their 20th game in the last 24 (see story). This time, with Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg leading the club, the Phillies were shut out for the 11th time of the season and for the fourth time during the 4-20 swoon.
Not even a solid pitching outing from Cliff Lee, who went eight innings and allowed just five hits, could change the Phillies’ fortunes against the streaking Dodgers on Friday. After the game, Sandberg talked about Zack Greinke’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball and his timing-killing changeup, but that wasn’t the real reason the Phillies played so poorly again.
This time it was because they felt guilty about costing Manuel his job.
“There’s no thought behind that. It’s the truth,” Rollins said. “The manager is always the first one to go. It always starts with him and he always gave credit. He didn’t take credit when the wins came, so we feel the same way. If we had been winning, he’d still be here. That’s the truth.”
Lee, who suffered his fourth straight defeat on Friday, didn’t seem surprised that Manuel was out as manager. But he knew very well the reason Sandberg was in and Manuel was out.
“It’s definitely our fault he got let go,” Lee said.
Nevertheless, the Ryne Sandberg era began exactly the way the Charlie Manuel era ended. The Phillies had chances to score runs off Greinke and relievers Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario, but came up empty.
Though the Phillies got just three hits, they were able to draw five walks. They had the leadoff man on base in the second, fourth and seventh innings and had two on with one out and then the bases loaded in the eighth inning.
The trends didn’t change one bit.
The Phillies went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position with a pop up, two groundouts and two strikeouts. Utley put one ball in play and had some shaky moments in the field. Dom Brown misplayed a fly ball into an RBI double with two outs in the seventh.
Before the game, Sandberg talked about cleaning up some of the “lackadaisical” play he’d seen from the Phillies lately, but clearly the best laid plans take some time.
“It was a roller coaster of a day emotionally,” Sandberg said. “It affected me and I think it affects the players. That’s how the day was.”
After his introductory press conference in the afternoon, Sandberg met with his team to fill them in on the regime change. He also explained his expectations and let the players know that there were chances for them to prove something on the field.
Nobody took Sandberg up on the opportunity to stand out on Friday, but then again, it was only the first day.
“I just let them know that I was their manager for the next 42 games on an interim basis. Some of my expectations about meaningful games, play the right way, give your best and try to win games,” Sandberg said.
“I used the word opportunity. There is an opportunity here for the players and a responsibility to be a major league player.”
Fortunately for the Phillies, a new game arrives on Saturday. For a season that seemed doomed at the outset and suddenly has taken an unexpected turn, the slate is temporarily clean.
Change comes quickly, but then so does the routine. The Phillies hope to get back into a new groove quickly.
“Baseball is demanding,” Rollins said. “Change happens, but the game keeps going. It doesn’t stop.”