Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happ to Start Postponed Game 3 for Phillies

Pirates vs. Phillies

The inclement weather has already impacted the NLDS without a pitch being thrown. With the schedule pushed back a day due to cold and snowy conditions, Charlie Manuel has decided to forego Pedro Martinez in favor of J.A. Happ to start Game 3 against the Rockies. The move had been speculated as a possibility and Manuel confirmed it late yesterday afternoon.

The decision does not reflect a lack of confidence in Martinez, but rather previous seasonal results and trends. Happ tossed a gem against the Rockies in early August, registering a 4-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. Additionally, the Rockies are less effective against left-handed pitching with greater reliance on lefty hitters. Happ has also overcome a knee contusion that he suffered in Game 2 and indicates that he feels fine.

Martinez could not have been more gracious in accepting the change. He supported the decision, indicating that it was the most reasonable thing to do, and hopes to get called upon in a relief role if needed.

Manuel also announced that Cliff Lee will get the nod as the Game 4 starter on Monday. Cole Hamels could get the assignment if the series goes 5 games, but Manuel has yet to make that determination. Depending on who he calls on out of the bullpen over the next two days, he could also tap Martinez or Joe Blanton. The current pitching decisions along with the ongoing flexibility are reflective of Manuel's courage to make bold moves rather than be constrained by fear of criticism.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy has decided to stick with right-hander Jason Hammel. In two games against the Phillies this season, Hammel was 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA, allowing a .359 batting average.

Although it will be cold tonight, the Phillies hope to heat things up with their bats. It is encouraging that Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino swung the bats well in the first two games of the series. All the team's scoring has occurred in the fifth inning or later, though, so they hope to put some runs on the board early to give Happ some cushion.

The weather still may be somewhat of a factor due to the evening start and temperatures projected to be 38 degrees at game time. There is a good chance that the temperature will drop below the previous post season record low of 35 degrees during the game. These are surely not ideal weather conditions for any game, but especially for the pivotal third game of the NLDS.

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