- When the Phillies attempt to close out Colorado tonight and put in place a rematch of the 2008 NLCS against Los Angeles, they might feel a little better about the last three outs than they did when the regular season ended. Well, a little better, anyway.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, in his first real test of how he would handle his endgame, gave a one-run lead to Brad Lidge in part because he had no options, not after he had to dip into his bullpen early and often and because an ankle injury to Scott Eyre forced Ryan Madson into the game early. In a turbulent week for closers, in which Ryan Franklin of St. Louis, Joe Nathan of Minnesota and Jonathan Papelbon of Boston all were undone by a lack of command, Lidge, the shakiest proposition when the week began, somehow survived and at least gave Philadelphia some hope that it's beginning to look like 2008 again.
Lidge did preserve the 6-5 victory, though there were signs that he still is rough around the edges. Lidge threw more balls (11) than strikes (9). He faced five batters and fell behind with a first-pitch ball on every one of them. He walked two batters, didn't get a single swinging strike and still had problems commanding his fastball. (He threw only five of his 12 fastballs for strikes.)
Manuel "had no options"? A) I'm not sure if that's true, and B) if it's true, isn't that Manuel's fault?
Regarding A) isn't Pedro Martinez on the roster? He still hasn't pitched in this series, and might not. Kyle Kendrick and Brett Myers were available last night, too. Granted, neither of them are exactly world-beaters, but still.
As for B) maybe Manuel doesn't trust any of those guys because they're, you know, not good enough. But wait! What about Clay Condrey? Or Tyler Walker? Walker was an actual closer a few years ago, and he pitched quite well this season ... Oh, but there wasn't room on the Phillies' roster for Walker or Condrey, perhaps because a space had to be held for Brad Lidge.
Of course, the Phillies are probably going to win this series, and if they do win, they're not likely to drop Lidge from their League Championship Series roster. Scott Eyre's hurt, which might open a slot for Condrey or Walker.
But if Manuel didn't have room for Tyler Walker on his Division Series roster, he's not going to have room for Tyler Walker in his ninth innings. He should have solved this problem in September or, at the very latest, one week ago. Instead it's still a problem, and it's going to cost him. Not last night, maybe. But eventually it will.
Let's assume that the Phillies do beat the Rockies. With the 2008 version of Brad Lidge protecting small leads, I would rate the Phillies as slight underdogs against the Dodgers. With the 2009 version, though? I'll take the Dodgers in five.