The opener of the Phils' series in Washington against the lowly Nationals was one of the stranger games in my recent memory. First off, the Phightins hit 5 solo homers tonight, scoring 5 runs. Raul Ibanez, who finally seems to have broken out of his long slump, hit 2. Jayson Werth had one, Chase Utley had one, and catcher Carlos Ruiz had the fifth. The Phils are now the 12th team in the history major league baseball with four players with 30 or more homers (Howard, Ibanez, Utley, and Werth), while Ruiz has raised his batting average to almost .260. Ruiz has been contributing lately.
Pedro Martinez gave Charlie Manuel another quality start in running his record with the Phillies to 4-0 with 6 1/3 solid innings. Brett Myers pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings, and then Charlie brought in Brad Lidge. And Lidge did his very best to blow the save opportunity, leaving after getting one out, hitting a batter, walking another, and throwing a wild pitch. When Charlie finally came and got Lidge, the bases were loaded with one out and 9th inning homer specialist Ryan Zimmerman coming up with the winning run on first base. Fortunately, Ryan Madson struck out Zimmerman and then induced cleanup hitter Adam Dunn to ground out to end the game. And so the Phils won 5-3 against the dreadful Nationals in a game that should not have been that close. The photo is of Ryan Madson accepting congratulations from Carlos Ruiz after bailing Lidge out of his mess.
"That's a tough call," said Manuel. "I have all the respect in the world for Brad. I know how good a closer he is, and I know how great he can be. I've still got all the confidence in the world in him. But I'm sitting there and I didn't have a very good feel about the game. And I made up my mind that I wanted to try Madson. Things will work out and be OK, but at the same it's real tough." No doubt--Manuel has undoubtedly been dreading this day's arrival all season. "Let me tell you something," he continued. "When I tell you he's my closer, I don't tell lies. I don't like to go back on nothing. But the team and the game is bigger than my heart and it's bigger than anything else, if you want to know the truth. Winning a game is what it's all about. It's baseball and why I manage and it's what comes first."
Before the game, Charlie Manuel gave the beleaguered Lidge a vote of confidence, and he was rewarded with yet another really dreadful performance by his erstwhile closer. I just can't help but ask myself--when is Charlie finally going to face the truth and recognize that Lidge has no business closing this year, especially when he has a healthy and very effective Brett Myers to call upon. Perhaps tonight was the final straw. I surely hope so.