Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What a game!

Monday night's ninth inning comeback against the Dodgers will go down in Phillies lore. Overshadowed in the hoopla surrounding J-Roll's RBI double to win the game was the incredible performance by the Phils' bullpen.

By now, everyone has realized that Brad Lidge has shaken off a miserable season and regained some of his dominant 2008 form. And while that might be true, that's not the entire story.

Last night, Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, and Lidge gave the Phillies 3 scoreless innings of relief. After Joe Blanton's shaky start, those three shutdown innings made J-Roll's heroics possible.

Lidge's story is well documented, including a long feature by The New York Times about this closer's journey from the depths during his final two seasons in Houston to his resurrection last season with a perfect 48 saves in 48 attempts and then a return this year to being completely unreliable.

Look also, though, at Park, who returned from the disabled list for this series. Madson, who can't get out of his own head long enough to become a dominant closer, despite possessing a 98-mph fastball, and Eyre.

Of the group, Eyre's story is perhaps the most amazing of the group.

Eyre has several loose bodies (probably bone spurs) in his pitching elbow and is going to undergo surgery as soon as the season ends, not to prepare for spring training. No, the surgery is just so he can lead a normal life without pain because Eyre announced earlier this year that this would be his last season.

Of course, he declared the same thing following last year's World Series victory. Yet the Phillies managed to convince him to stick around for one more season.

Acquired after the Cubs gave up on him last year, Eyre has become such a valuable member of the bullpen that he's a virtual co-closer. Part of Charlie Manuel's genius has been limiting Lidge's work in the ninth inning, and most often it's been Eyre taking the ball for the first one or two outs in the final frame.

And just to add another wrinkle to the story, Eyre is nearly broke (or at least he was in spring training). He had invested almost all of his money in the Allen Sanford Ponzi scheme, and during spring training claimed at one point to be unable to pay his bills.

So, yeah, this might be the journeyman lefty's swan song, but if so, he's putting together quite an ending.

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