If baseball is like playing a game of chess, then the Philadelphia Phillies were three moves ahead of everybody on Saturday night, including themselves.
With the game all squared at four in the top half of the eighth inning, the New York Mets put runners at second and third base with one out against reliever Mike Adams. Due up next for New York was 27-year-old rookie Eric Campbell, who also happened to be making his major league debut and had yet to record a hit.
In this scenario, there were three logical options for manager Ryne Sandberg and his battery of Adams and catcher Carlos Ruiz to consider.
1. Intentionally walk Campbell to load the bases and set up a potential inning-ending double play. Wilmer Flores, who was playing in only his third game this season, was on deck. He's a .212 hitter in 29 career games.
2. Pitch carefully to the rookie Campbell hoping he'll get overanxious and maybe get himself out.
3. Go right after him and hope for the best.
It turns out the Phillies went for option one, at least initially. On the first pitch, catcher Carlos Ruiz stood up and moved behind the left-handed batter’s box to receive an international ball one. Then there was a quick conversation at the mound involving Ruiz and second baseman Chase Utley, and suddenly the Phillies strategy turned to option three.
It was a rather bizarre series of events. You never see an intentional walk called off in the middle of a plate appearance unless the circumstances somehow change. That could include the rare intentional walk wild pitch, a balk, a pickoff, or anything that changes where the runners are positioned.
In this case, though, nothing about the situation changed. Only the strategy did, and apparently it was Philadelphia's veteran leaders Ruiz and Utley who made the call.
That's when Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz noticed the 40-year-old Abreu, cut by Philadelphia near the end of spring training, getting ready in the dugout.
Utley and Ruiz persuaded Adams to go after Campbell before Abreu had a chance to bat.
''We decided to change our minds,'' Utley said. ''We saw him coming up there. We try to see everything, but we don't always.''
Adams said the chat pumped him up, and Utley is ''always on top of it.''
Perhaps there's a future in managing for both guys. The strategy ended up working well with Campbell at the plate, as Adams needed only four more pitches to strike him out looking. Of course, Flores would draw an unintentional walk immediately following, which brought Bobby Abreu to the plate anyway, but Adams escaped the jam by inducing a soft comebacker.
They took a strange route to get there, but Philadelphia escaped the inning without allowing a run. The offense then took it from there, scoring one in the ninth on Ryan Howard's RBI single to pull out a 5-4 victory and make a winner of Adams on the mound. Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 11th save with a scoreless ninth.
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