Nix's game-saving diving catch sinks Phillies


Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Posted: 3:56 p.m.Updated: 6:22 p.m.

By Jim Salisbury


WASHINGTONRoy Oswalt didnt seem all that happy about being lifted after five innings and 79 pitches, but the Phillies feeble offense gave manager Charlie Manuel little choice.

I felt like it could be the last chance we had, Manuel said.

The skipper was talking about his decision to pull Oswalt out of the on-deck circle and send rookie Domonic Brown to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday afternoon.

The Phils were down by a run at the time and they stayed down by a run -- eventually losing to the Washington Nationals, 2-1 -- when Brown lined out to leftfielder Laynce Nix, who made a brilliant diving grab.

Oswalt went to the bench with plenty of bullets left, but Manuels decision was completely understandable.

And Brown nearly made it all work.

I watched it all the way, Brown said. Nix made a great play, a Gold Glove-type play, especially in that situation.

Manuel sent Brown to the plate even though he had held the rookie out of the starting lineup because the Phils were facing a left-handed starting pitcher and he knew Washington manager Jim Riggleman would send lefty Doug Slaten into the game as soon as Brown was announced.

The decision to use Brown while knowing a lefty would be entering the game was testament to just how much faith Manuel has developed in Brown since he was called up from Triple A on May 20.

I felt like Brown was the hottest, strongest, best hitter I had and I had to put him up there, Manuel said. Ive said it before. Domonic has a knack for putting the bat head on the ball. I thought he was the best option.

Brown entered the day hitting .333 (11 for 33) with four doubles and a homer in 10 games. Manuel said he considered starting Brown against lefty John Lannan, but ultimately decided to stick to his plan of breaking him in slowly against lefties. The day will come when Brown will face left-handed pitching regularly, and after his good at-bat Wednesday, it might come soon.

Ive always been confident against lefties, Brown said. I hit them well in the minor leagues, but its a different ballgame up here.

The left-handed-hitting Brown went the other way nicely on a 1-0 fastball from Slaten. With two outs and Ben Francisco, Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins on base, Brown likely would have cleared the bases if Nix didnt read the ball so well and save it from being a game-changing gapper with a full-extension diving catch.

I was just trying to hit the ball hard and he made a good play on it, Brown said. At first I thought it was going to fall in but he had a good read on it. It was almost like the play was in slow motion. I didnt like the ending, but thats baseball.

Nix had a day, as they say. He belted a solo homer on an 0-1 changeup against Oswalt in the third inning and that was the difference in the final score. There were other big plays besides Browns lineout, most notably John Mayberry Jr. being thrown out at the plate on a hit by Ryan Howard in the third inning.

Little plays such as that get magnified when a team doesnt score runs and the Phillies do that often. This game marked the 30th time in 56 games that the Phils have been held to three or fewer runs. They went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday and Wednesday in losing two of three to the Nationals.

In those games, the Phils lost to Jason Marquis and Lannan, two pitchers they had feasted on in the past. Lannan entered 0-10 in his career against the Phils and earned his first win against them by allowing just one unearned run in 5 13 innings.

The Phils got just four hits against the soft-tossing Lannan and that seemed to frustrate Manuel.

I thought wed score some runs against him, to tell you the truth, Manuel said. He threw a lot of slow stuff and we werent waiting on him and taking him the other way. We were swinging hard and big. He threw a lot of changeups and breaking balls and spotted his fastball. He ran it out of the strike zone. We couldnt get him. If youre patient and make him throw strikes you can get to him, but we didnt do that.

With the exception of a couple of pitches, Oswalt was pleased with the way he threw the ball in allowing two runs in five innings. He just would have liked to have stayed longer, but thats life in the National League when your team needs a run.

By the way, the Phils still have the best record in the NL at 34-22.

Oswalt was asked about the lack of run support, a familiar burden for Phillies pitchers.

My job is to stop them, he said. Im not too much into the offensive side unless Im up.

Oswalt was also asked about Manuels decision to pull him for a pinch hitter.

Its their decision, he said. He manages the team.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at

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