Manny has obviously not looked all that good this month; he is not turning on fastballs middle-in that he used to crush, and all his hits seem to be going to the opposite field. For all that broadcasters usually say that's a sign that a player's turning things around, in this case it seems more like he's just not able to catch up to anything except pitches on the outer half. With that said, I think he played a much more important role Thursday night than people have realized. Manny came up in the 7th inning with Wainwright at 80 pitches and cruising; he had retired 8 of 9 batters since Ethier's homer. Of those 9 batters, 6 had been retired with 3 or fewer pitches (Kershaw saw 6, Loney 5, and Furcal 4). Manny worked a full count and fouled off 3 pitches before striking out on a filthy curveball. Before that 9 pitch at bat, Wainwright was easily on pace for a complete game, and the Dodgers certainly didn't look too likely to manage another run. After the at bat, he was at 89 pitches through 6 and 2/3 - still a good total, and still with a possibility of throwing a complete game, but finally beginning to tire a bit, as we saw when he struggled with 2 outs in the 8th. When Wainwright finished the 8th with 109 pitches and a lefty who'd homered earlier in the game due up, LaRussa couldn't resist going to the bullpen.
In the end, Manny clearly wasn't the hero that Belliard, Loretta, and Blake were, and probably not even as much as Furcal, who went 1 for 3 and worked a big walk to load the bases in the 8th. He did, however, play a key role in the way the game developed, and though Wainwright has (rightfully) garnered a smattering of praise for battling through that at bat and finishing it with a beautiful curve ball, Manny should get his modicum of praise as well. He may have lost the battle, but he made an important contribution to winning the war.