Phillies need Game 3 starter against Rockies
AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Pedro Martinez wants the ball in another big game.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will consider giving the three-time Cy Young Award winner the start in Game 3.
Martinez was the only pitcher out of the three possible starting candidates that did not pitch Thursday in a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies that evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece. J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton both made cameo appearances out of the bullpen in Game 2 when reigning World Series MVP Cole Hamels failed to make it past the fifth inning.
Happ and Blanton’s relief stints means Manuel’s decision on a Game 3 starter got a lot more complicated. Martinez wants to make it easy for him.
“I guess I’m the only one standing,” he said.
Blanton and the 37-year-old Martinez are the likely candidates to start Saturday in Colorado. Happ was knocked out of the game after he was struck in the left leg by a line drive in the seventh inning. The brief outing against the Rockies could prove costly for the rookie.
“That is the thing that concerns me,” Manuel said.
Manuel refused to announce a starter. He said he likely wouldn’t pick Blanton or Martinez until after Philadelphia’s workout Friday at Colorado.
Martinez believed the decision was obvious.
“I’ve been in this game long enough to understand it’s my spot,” Martinez said.
Happ faced only one batter in relief of Blanton as Rockies pinch-hitter Seth Smith hit a hard shot just under Happ’s left knee for an infield single. The Phillies trainer immediately came rushing out and Happ left the game for Scott Eyre.
Happ sustained a lower left leg contusion. X-rays were negative.
Happ said he could have stayed in the game if he had 5 more minutes. He felt some tightness after the game and planned to tell Manuel he could start Game 3.
“I don’t anticipate it being an issue,” Happ said.
Manuel called on Blanton with the Phillies trailing 4-0 in the sixth inning. He pitched a scoreless sixth and was charged with a run in the seventh, failing to retire any of the two batters he faced.
Manuel defended his decision to burn two-fifths of Philadelphia’s rotation in relief.
“I felt like we were still in the game, and I felt like they weren’t going to pitch very long,” he said. “I felt like we had to hold them.”
Happ went 12-4 for the Phillies this year and made 23 starts. Happ, a strong candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, did make 12 relief appearances earlier this season before he was moved into the rotation in place of a struggling Chan Ho Park.
Blanton, a right-hander, went 12-8 and all 31 of his appearances were starts. Blanton threw only 19 pitches in one inning against the Rockies; Happ just four. It was about the equivalent of a bullpen side session, leaving open the chance each of them could come back on Saturday.
Happ struck out 10 and tossed a shutout against the Rockies in July. Blanton did not face the Rockies this season. Blanton’s relief appearance was his first since Game 1 of the 2006 ALCS with Oakland.
And what about Martinez? Considered finished after he didn’t re-sign with the Mets, Martinez was the late-season free-agent steal of the year with a 5-1 record and 3.63 ERA in nine starts. The aging right-hander only pitched seven innings combined in his last two starts, and hasn’t taken the mound since a no-decision against Houston on Sept. 30.
He’s 6-2 with a 3.40 ERA in the postseason.
“I’d say he’s capable of going out there and throwing definitely 90 to 100 pitches,” Manuel said. “I can see Pedro getting in a game.”
His age, minimal work the last few weeks, and the frigid temperatures expected at Coors Field could rule out Martinez. Manuel said the weather could play a role in his decision.
Martinez laughed when he said he never pitched in snow before.
“I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not scared,” Martinez said.
The Phillies haven’t named a starter for Sunday’s Game 4, either. It could be one of the losers of the Blanton-Happ-Martinez jumble, or the Phillies could go back to Game 1 winner Cliff Lee on three days’ rest.
The Phillies were counting on Hamels to pick up where he left off last postseason when he went 4-0 and was MVP of the NL championship series and the World Series.
He labored on the mound at the same time his wife, Heidi, went into labor with the couple’s first child. Hamels said this week his wife was due “any day.”
So is a decision on the Game 3 starter.