Phillies

Baseball wasn't all that was on Charlie Manuel's mind during that 2008 World Series run

Baseball wasn't all that was on Charlie Manuel's mind during that 2008 World Series run

There were so many little subplots behind the Phillies' magical journey to the 2008 World Series.

The team won 13 of its final 16 ballgames to win the division. That streak built momentum and set a tone for a magical October, where ...

Jimmy Rollins hit leadoff home runs on the road and every time you turned around, Shane Victorino seemed to be swatting another clutch extra-base hit. Pat Burrell and Brett Myers, both former first-round draft picks by the club, had some of their finest moments in red pinstripes. Matt Stairs stopped time with one swing. Kid Cole was spectacular and closer Brad Lidge, the entire bullpen, for that matter, was amazing.

All these years later, it's easy to forget that there was one other major subplot on the Phillies' road to the 2008 World Series.

Manager Charlie Manuel, beloved and respected by his players, lost his mother as the National League Championship Series was set to begin. June Manuel was 87.

In their last conversation, June Manuel told her oldest son, "Charles, I want you to win that World Series."

So, on the night of October 15, 2008, those weren't just champagne droplets in Charlie Manuel's eyes as he celebrated the Phillies' NLCS clincher at Dodger Stadium.

"I guarantee my mom is watching right now," he said after his club's 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 5.

The next day, he flew to his hometown, Buena Vista, Virginia, to bury his mom.

Manuel was 64 when the Phillies won that NL pennant, advanced to the World Series and won it all, raising the trophy and unforgettably saying, "Hey, this is for Philadelphia! This is for our fans!"

The fans loved it and they loved Charlie.

But it's easy to forget that it wasn't always that way. Manuel succeeded the very popular Larry Bowa as manager in the fall of 2005. The citizenry wanted Jim Leyland and howled in disapproval when general manager Ed Wade hired Manuel, who was frequently ripped and criticized during his first couple of seasons in Philadelphia.

On the subject of the negative reaction to his hiring, Manuel once told me: "I was aware of it. There's nothing I can do about it. I can take it. I'm pretty tough. That's OK if people want to hear my (Southern) accent and form a quick opinion of me. I'm the kind of guy who will sneak up on you. I tell the other managers all the time, 'Go easy on me.' But in the back of mind, I know I'm going to try to kick his [butt]. Sell me short, and I'll get you."

Wade was gone by the time the Phillies blossomed into a five-time division champ and World Series winner, but he had a huge hand in building the best of times in Phillies baseball and Manuel's hiring was one of his best moves. Even his successor, Hall of Famer executive Pat Gillick, acknowledged that. Gillick seriously considered letting Manuel go after the 2006 season. He decided against it and before stepping down after his three-year run as GM ended with a World Series title, said keeping Manuel was the best move he'd ever made in his long and storied career.

Manuel went from being kicked around like an old football in 2005 and 2006 to being embraced like a favorite uncle after the Phillies started winning in 2007.

Winning breeds acceptance and Charlie was accepted as a Philadelphian.

A beloved Philadelphian.

Still is.

Truth is, it was always that way for his players. They loved him, trusted him, believed in him, believed he had their backs and went to post for him from Day 1. So, when Manuel lost his mom before that NLCS, there was only one thing the players wanted to do.

"We want to win this for Charlie," pitcher Brett Myers said before his Game 2 start.

One of Manuel's strengths was his great ability to take the pulse of his clubhouse, to get to know his players, earn their trust and learn what makes them tick. He could look into a player's eyes and know if that guy was up to the task or ready to fold. You can see this leadership quality Friday night when NBC Sports Philadelphia completes its re-airing of the 2008 NLCS with the Game 5 clincher. (The World Series comes next week.)

Fueled by another leadoff homer from Rollins, the Phils were up by four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and Cole Hamels was on the mound. The 24-year-old lefty was brilliant throughout that postseason but he was starting to bob and weave in that seventh inning at Dodger Stadium. Hamels issued a pair of two-out walks and the huge crowd was getting loud as dangerous Jeff Kent, the NL MVP in 2000, strode to the plate with a chance to be a game-changer.

Hamels was running out of gas as his pitch count was nearing 100. Manuel went to the mound. Usually when he made a trip to the mound it was to take the pitcher out. This time, he looked in Hamels' eyes, read his pitcher, and let the lefthander stay in the game. The young pitcher ran the count to 2-2 then rewarded his skipper's faith by striking out Kent looking at a 94-mph dart at the knees. It was Hamels' 104th and final — and best — pitch of the game. It was also the final at-bat of Kent's outstanding career.

The bullpen tandem of Ryan Madson and Lidge closed out the win with scoreless work in the eighth and ninth innings. For the NLCS, the Phillies' bullpen picked up 18⅔ innings and allowed just two runs.

As the final out settled into catcher Carlos Ruiz's mitt, Manuel remained in the dugout and received handshakes and hugs from his coaching staff.

He was going to the World Series.

But first, he had to go say good-bye to his mom.

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Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Phillies star prospect Alec Bohm made his major league debut at third base on Thursday night, a pretty big moment for the future of the organization. 

Things went wrong basically all night for the Phils - of course! - but the 24-year-old managed to smack his first career at-bat down the third base line for a double, quite a way to begin a career.

While his parents and girlfriend couldn't be in attendance at Citizens Bank Park because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they were certainly watching. And, thanks to technology, we can watch their reactions to Bohm's first hit.

Here's what an MLB debut hit looks like in 2020:

Man, that's just the best. 

So much to love in a 41-second clip - Bohm's dad keeping his cool and noting the double; his mom's absolute exuberance; his girlfriend commenting on Bohm's smile - but my favorite part is the quote from his mom at the very end.

"Go baby go!"

Fantastic.

After an otherwise brutal night for the Phils, I'm going to just keep watching this video on repeat. At least one thing went right.

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Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

For the third straight night, the Phillies blew a multi-run lead against the Orioles in the middle innings. And for what feels like the 30th straight night, the Phillies' putrid bullpen didn't come close to keeping the game close.

It resulted in another loss as the Phillies were swept at home by the O's, losing 11-4 Thursday with seven of those runs coming against the Phils' bullpen.

Jake Arrieta had been cruising and the Phils built a two-run lead on J.T. Realmuto's opposite-field home run in the bottom of the fourth. But the next half-inning, Arrieta lost his command and couldn't pick up the final out with the bases loaded.

The Orioles scored four times in the fifth inning, the biggest hit a bases-clearing double from outfielder Anthony Santander.

Baltimore tacked on seven more runs against the Phillies' bullpen, which has a 10.13 ERA. Phillies relievers have allowed 48 earned runs in 42⅔ innings, which seems almost impossible.

"You have to be able to pitch to win games in this league, and quite frankly we just haven't thrown the ball well," Realmuto said. "We haven't done well late in games, in particular, when we've needed it. To win a division and to get to the playoffs, you need a really good bullpen. That's an area where we haven't done that well so far. We've got the guys to do it, we've just got to get better."

The Phillies are 5-9. They have the second-worst winning percentage in the National League, ahead of only the Pirates.

"It's concerning," Realmuto said. "With this shortened season, we've got to get it going quicker. It's definitely being talked about in the clubhouse. We're trying to pick each other up and stay positive. If you have one good week, you're back in it. Especially in our division, nobody is really running away with it yet."

Bohm's debut

Making his MLB debut, third baseman Alec Bohm's first major-league plate appearance ended with a double down the third-base line. He struck out looking in his second at-bat and flew out to a step in front of the warning track in right field to strand two runners in his third AB. In his final at-bat, he drilled a ball to the warning track in right-center for a flyout.

Bohm was also involved in Baltimore's fifth-inning rally. Pedro Severino rocketed a ball right under his glove at third base. It was the second-hardest hit ball of the night to that point and was a tough play but still probably one a big-league third baseman has to make.

Prior to the game, Phillies GM Matt Klentak described the team's plans to integrate Bohm into the everyday lineup.

Bryce and J.T. do it again

The Phillies are 5-9 but they might be something like 2-12 without their best two players. Realmuto hit a pair of two-run homers Thursday night, giving him 7 HR with 17 RBI on the season. Both home runs came after an extra-base hit from Bryce Harper, who doubled and tripled.

Harper is hitting .356 and leads MLB with a 1.202 OPS. Realmuto is hitting .292 and slugging .729, third to only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. Realmuto has three more home runs than any other big-league catcher despite the Phillies having played a handful fewer games than most of the league.

There is a very good chance this is the hottest Harper and Realmuto will be in 2020. It would be hard to be hotter. If that's the case, the Phillies wasted all of this production.

Arrieta's night

Arrieta appeared to be on his way to another strong start before that fifth inning. He followed six shutout frames against the Braves with four zeroes Thursday night, extending his scoreless innings streak to 12 before the Orioles broke out.

"There's no reason I shouldn't have been able to throw at least seven innings in that game," Arrieta said. "A couple of runs should have been enough. Giving up four in the fifth kind of took the wind out of our sails. That one's completely my fault. I had multiple opportunities to make a pitch and get out of that inning. Just wasn't able to do it."

Through three starts, Arrieta has a 4.02 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 15⅔ innings.

More bad bullpening

Debuting Connor Brogdon was welcomed to the Phillies' bullpen by allowing two homers and three runs in 1⅓ innings. The Phillies have nine relievers with an ERA over 8.00 and ended up using position player Neil Walker for the final two outs.

Up next

The Phillies welcome the Mets to town for a three-game series this weekend. Jacob deGrom is scheduled to pitch for the Mets in Game 1. The Phillies will go with Spencer Howard for his second major-league start.

Aaron Nola starts for the Phillies Saturday, while Zack Wheeler faces his old team Sunday.

After the weekend, the Phillies play 10 straight games and 20 of their next 29 on the road.

"We obviously haven't performed up to our standards, that's for sure," Arrieta said. "There's really no time to worry about it. We just have to play better. We already have to catch up quite a bit."

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