Thursday, September 24, 2009

11 Blown Saves and Counting....

Brad Lidge, also known as The Human Incendiary Device, got lit up like a Christmas tree last night, not only blowing his 11th save of the season, but also losing the game to the pesky Florida Marlins in the bottom of the 9th. Lidge came in with a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the 9th, promptly gave up a lead-off double, and ultimately gave up 3 more hits to blow the game. The Phils lost 7-6, wasting another decent but not overpowering effort by Cole Hamels and homers by Ryan Howard (his 42nd) and Raul Ibanez (his 33rd, tying his career high), as well as two RBI's by Hamels. Lidge is now 0-8, with a gruesome 7.48 ERA. And yet Charlie Manuel continues to trot this guy out there.

When the lead-off hitter hit his double and then advanced to third on a fly ball by the next hitter, I had an immediate sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, knowing that the the tying run was on third base with only one out, and because I just have no confidence at all in Lidge. Unfortunately, my fears were rapidly proved well-taken.

"Him and Madson, that's what we've got in the back end of the bullpen right now," explained Charlie. "He's struggling. At the same time, it's hard for us to close a game out. It's tough. It's kind of what we've got. I mean, I've got confidence in him. I keep running him out there. Hopefully he does the job. I pull like hell for him every time he goes out there, believe me."

I understand pulling like hell for him, but I don't understand the confidence. Lidge has demonstrated that he's not worthy of that confidence now. "It's frustrating," admitted Lidge. "I'm disappointed. They hit the ball tonight and did a good job. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get a chance to get something started again." I hope not. We can't afford it.

A little of Charlie Manuel's frustration crept through last night, which is no surprise. "The bottom line is, when you're winning going into the ninth, you have to win the game," he declared. "The big thing is we're not closing the game out. When you're leading going into the eighth and ninth, you're supposed to win a high percentage of those. I don't know exactly what the percentage is, but it's...damn high." The problem is that with Brett Myers, Chan Ho Park, and J. C. Romero all out injured, Manuel has few options available other than Madson and Lidge. Madson has not set the world on fire as a closer, either, so there really aren't many moves available to the manager. Perhaps it's time to give Sergio Escalona a shot, because he can't do any worse.

Manuel is, of course, absolutely correct about that. The problem is that with the 2009 version of Brad Lidge, it's not going to happen. The bottom line is that a team with no effective closer has almost no chance of succeeding in the post-season where pitching makes all the difference. I hate to admit that, but it's the truth.

As the regular season winds down with performances like last night's, I hold out little hope for the prospects of repeating as World Series champions.

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