Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Streak Ends

Brad Lidge's save streak finally ended last night after 54 games.  Lidge came into a game against the surprising San Diego Padres with the Phils ahead 5-4.  Presumably, it would be more of the same: Lights Out Lidge would nail down another victory.

However, this year's edition of Brad Lidge seems to be different from last year's edition.  He has been struggling with command of his fastball, and has been hit.  He almost blew a save earlier this week when he gave up a homer.  Last night was ugly, because Lidge got lit up like a Christmas tree.  He gave up a lead-off double followed by a couple of hits, walked a couple of batters, and then gave up a three-run homer.  He was wild and not in command of his pitches.  Instead of winning 5-4, the Phils lost 8-5.  To give the notably difficult Phillies fans credit, although some booed when Lidge gave up the homer, they gave him a standing ovation when he came out of the game in recognition of what he'd accomplished and what he meant to last year's world championship team.

We all knew that the streak had to end sooner or later, so it's not a huge surprise that it did.  Lidge is, after all, only human, and this has been an exceedingly difficult week for the Phillies as a consequence of Harry Kalas' sudden  death.  There was a very emotional and undoubtedly difficult farewell ceremony for Harry the K at Citizens Bank Park yesterday afternoon before the game, and I have no doubt that this week has taken a toll on all involved.  I am, therefore, not as concerned about the steak ending as I might otherwise be.

I am much more concerned about the fact that virtually every Phillies' pitcher has been hit hard so far this spring and by the fact that the entire staff seems very ineffective just now.  After ten games, the team ERA is a staggering 7.16, dead last in the National League.  Charlie Manuel had better do something to get his pitching staff righted and turned around quickly, before the barrage of homers by opposing players teams buries the Phils' hopes of repeating before June.  I don't know what the solution is, but they had better figure something out and fast. 

UPDATE, 4:30 P.M.:  Chan Ho Park got hit pretty hard in his second start for the Phillies today.  He gave up 4 earned runs in 5 innings, including two homers.  His ERA so far is in excess of 8.  However, the Phils got excellent work from their bullpen today.  J.A. Happ pitched 3 shutout innings and Clay Condrey 1.  A walk-off two-run homer by Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the ninth won the game for the Phils, who trailed the whole way.  All five of the Phils' runs came on homers, by Utley, Ibanez and a pinch-hit homer by Jimmy Rollins, who got the day off today.  Ibanez has been sensational so far.

I think it's probably time for Charlie Manuel to consider banishing Park to the bullpen and giving Happ a shot at the starting rotation.

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