Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lights Out?

Every Phillies fan has been waiting for this. Last night, it happened.

Leading the Nationals by two in the ninth inning, Phillies' skipper Charlie Manuel brought in Brad "Lights Out" Lidge to close out the victory.

Instead, Lidge gave up a single to the first batter. Watching on TV, viewers could see Lidge's intensity as he turned around to retrieve the ball from second baseman Chase Utley, and this lip reader could swear he saw Lidge shout, "Let's go."

Unfortunately, Phillies fans know how this story goes. When Lidge lets the first batter on base, bad things happen.

Last night that meant a ground out from the second hitter, follower by a hit batter, and a walk to load the bases.

Manuel had seen enough. And this night, he had options.

In the seventh inning, Manuel had brought in former starter turned closer turned starter turned reliever Brett Myers. Myers got the final out in the seventh and then set down all three in the eighth.

That kept Ryan Madson in the bullpen instead of on the field in the eighth inning.

And when Lidge took the mound, Madson was already up in the 'pen. So, when Manuel decided that last night would not turn into Lidge's 11th blown save of the season, he was able to bring in Madson, with his 97-mph fastball and devastating change-up.

Earlier this season, Madson had failed in the closer's role when Lidge was on the disabled list; but by pulling his closer last night rather than letting him fail.

And even more significantly, by setting up his use of the bullpen to have Madson available to bail out Lidge, Charlie Manuel clearly indicated to Lidge, Madson, and the entire team that his patience has run out.

It's September, and there's no more time to talk about players coming around. This is the pennant drive. Come up short in the next 8 weeks, and the Phillies won't be parading down Broad Street in November.

Will Lidge be back on the mound in the ninth inning tonight in a save situation? Perhaps, but he now knows that his manager has other options and is willing to use them.

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