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McCaffery: A seven-part plan for Phils manager Rob Thomson to avoid more postseason pitfalls

It takes a manager of a certain confidence to attempt the stunt Rob Thomson did last November, one literally bound for the front pages of baseball history.

His team just the second ever to be no-hit in a World Series game, striking out a numbing 14 times in Game 4 against a parade of Houston Astros pitchers, Thomson would come back the next day with the identical batting order. Shockingly, the Phillies would fan another dozen times and extend to 21 a streak of innings without posting a crooked number.

Who’d have thought?

Not including the half a season when it was littered only with polyurethane people, that one 24-hour blast of stubbornness was the most surreal in Citizens Bank Park history.

So as September has leaked into its second week, the reality continues to loom that the Phillies – flawed in too many areas, talented in plenty of others – will be back in the tournament. So here is exactly what Thomson didn’t ask for, a handy primer for how to handle things this time around in topic-to-topic form. This way, the Phillies won’t stumble out of another postseason on a three-game losing streak.

No need for a thank you card. Just consider it a neighborly courtesy.

Those topics:

The No. 1 Starter >> Not that long ago, there was at least the threat of a two-man race. But Thomson, who was the first to begin the campaign, was right when he said Zack Wheeler should be a Cy Young Award candidate. Pitch him as often as possible. And this time, unlike the last time, don’t remove him from an elimination game in mid-shutout.

The Abbreviated Playoff Rotation >> After so many years of debating whether he is a No. 1 or a No. 2, it’s clear: Aaron Nola is the latter. But trust that he will uncork some of his double-figure strikeout efforts behind Wheeler, even though John Middleton shouldn’t authorize spending another dollar on his over-used right arm in free agency. Experienced Taijuan Walker has to be in the three-man game. If a fourth starter is necessary, make it Cristopher Sanchez over Ranger Suarez by a whisker and allow Suarez to boost the bullpen. In the event of an early-game stumble, be thankful Michael Lorenzen is around for responsible long relief.

The Closer >> None of the above. That was the way it was set up, yet when aged Craig Kimbrel provided a handful of successful weeks at just the right time, he was able to sneak into the All-Star Game as an understudy, with Thomson and others being fooled into believing he suddenly was Brad Lidge. So be a manger. Use Kimbrel in the right spots, and do the same with Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto and Matt Strahm. As for Seranthony Dominguez, somebody has to be around for mop-up. And just remember these two proper nouns, should Thomson insist on using Kimbrel and only Kimbrel to close in the playoffs: Carter, Joe.

The Leadoff Hitter >> OK, already. It literally has become a grinning point with Thomson whenever the topic arises. The man will use Kyle Schwarber in that spot and at all risk of tripping over the Mendoza Line and breaking something. By the way, Schwarber led off in that no-hitter and the next day, too. And it’s never too late to learn something. Long term, vandalizing the top of the order with a world leader in striking out will not pay. That job must go to speedy and more reliable Trea Turner, which is why he is into the Phillies for $300,000,000 in the first place. And since the shortstop will finish the season with 25-plus dings, that should satisfy Thomson’s addiction to top-of-the-order clout.

The Regular Nine >> For this exercise, figure Rhys Hoskins will be available in October. If so, he’s the DH. That makes Bryce Harper the regular first baseman and leaves Schwarber in left. His defensive excellence aside, Johan Rojas cannot be trusted offensively in the playoffs, not at this point in his career, but Brandon Marsh can, even against left-handers. The rest of the positions are set.

The Preferred Batting Order >> Understanding that in the event of a no-hit emergency, it must be changed within 12 hours, it is not complicated. Turner leads off. Bryson Stott, the best hitter on the team, is next. Harper. Hoskins to clean up. Insert contact-hitter Alec Bohm just ahead of Nick Castellanos. Then use Marsh, J.T. Realmuto and Schwarber – as a second leadoff man, if it gives Thomson a thrill – in a left-right-left bottom of the lineup.

The 26-man Roster >> Infielders Harper, Stott, Turner, Bohm, Edmundo Sosa; outfielders Schwarber, Marsh, Rojas, Castellanos; catchers Realmuto, Garrett Stubbs; designated hitter Hoskins; left-handed hitting Jake Cave, right-handed-hitting Cristian Pache; pitchers Wheeler, Nola, Walker, Sanchez, Suarez; relievers Alvarado, Strahm, Sosa, Kimbrel, Lorenzen, Jeff Hoffman and Dominguez.

So do it.

Do it all.

Then thank Dylan Covey, Rodolfo Castro and Andrew Bellatti for their parts in their program and promise to remember them at the next ring ceremony.

Contact Jack McCaffery at


Source: Berkshire mont

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