Manuel giving Ibanez benefit of the doubt
Left fielder likely to start Game 4 despite postseason slump
SAN FRANCISCO -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has remained loyal to Jimmy Rollins throughout his struggles, and it appears he plans to take the same approach with Raul Ibanez.
With the Giants starting rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on Wednesday night, Manuel would seemingly have reason to at least contemplate positioning the right-handed-hitting Ben Francisco in left field in favor of the left-handed-hitting Ibanez.
"[Ibanez] has been hitting lefties good the second half of the season," Manuel said. "I'll think about it. He's got some big hits off lefties. Francisco hasn't played since we left Washington at the end of the season. I'll think about all that. But at the same time, it's getting kind of late to be trying to make moves, isn't it?"
Through the first three games of this NLCS, Ibanez has gone 0-for-11 with five strikeouts. The 38-year-old left fielder has hit .130 (3-for-23) during the Phillies' first six postseason games this year.
With that being said, Ibanez did hit .370 with four homers and a 1.034 OPS in his final 23 regular-season games.
If Ibanez was still struggling against left-handers like he did while hitting .210 (17-for-81) against them before the All-Star break, Manuel might be more apt to go with Francisco.
But while hitting .350 in his final 60 regular-season at-bats against left-handers, Ibanez gave his manager further reason to be confident to keep him in the lineup against southpaws.
Francisco started just 32 games for the Phillies this year, and three of those starts came against the Nationals in Washington -- after the club clinched the NL East title. The 29-year-old outfielder hit .253 (23-for-91) against right-handed pitchers and .284 (25-for-88) against left-handed pitchers this season.
In his 18 regular-season starts, Bumgarner allowed right-handed hitters to hit .283 with a .323 on-base percentage and a .429 slugging percentage. Left-handed hitters batted .243 with a .304 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage against him.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.