Brad Lidge Concerns:
The regular season is down to the magic 5 (combo of Phils wins, Braves losses). Should have only been 4 after last night's game, but once again Brad Lidge blew the game in the ninth inning allowing two runs. Phils lose 6-5. Lidge's blowing of games has been an ongoing problem that has been well documented nationally throughout the year. I'm about as comfortable with Brad Lidge pitching as Rhianna is about going toe-to-toe with Chris Brown. Lidge started hurt, then he said he was healthy, then started blowing games and said he was hurt again...now he says he's healthy! Give me a break.
Lidge is 0-8 with a 7.48 era and 11 blown saves. These numbers are alarming and something that cannot be overlooked, which I believe Charlie Manuel has, but his numbers in the past 7 games are down right scary. In these 7 games (1 HOU, 3 WAS, 1 NYM, 1 FLM, 1 ATL), Lidge is 0-2 with a 13.85 era and has allowed 8 runs. Out of these 7 games, Lidge only threw a shutout inning twice -he allowed at least one hit in every one of these games. Lidge has not pitched a 1-2-3 inning since August 30th - nearly a month back (9 games ago). Last night, I could have thrown my beer through the television screen, honestly. Holding me back were 3 things: 1) it was a Yuengling 2) It was my parents new TV, they'd be super pissed 3) I once threw a small glass table out of my college living room window during a ND/Michigan game (long story)...and have since realized throwing things over sports gets you nowhere but in your friends jokes for years to come.
But on a serious note, the Phils took the Brad Lidge train two stops past town on this one. We've gone too deep into the season to make any change at the closer position that would allow that player the amount of confidence he would need to pitch successfully in the playoffs. Myers is not healthy and has not pitched enough to be in the role, Madson has the arm to be a closer but has struggled with the closer role (confidence killer again), and any other option (CHP, Durbin, Eyre, Walker, etc.) leaves a player unfamiliar to such a critical pitching style and mindset. We have no other option than to stick it out with Brad. Therefore, pull out your Koran, Bible, Torah or whatever you swear on and start praying - otherwise, this next month (hopefully!) with Lidge could quickly remind us all of Mitch's struggles in '93, and then some.
Another reason we need to wrap up this division quickly is to get Carlos Ruiz as much rest as possible. News came out yesterday that his sprained wrist was aggrivated and he will be missing some games. The last thing we want to do is use the Panama Prince (I like that!) simply because we absolutely have to, no matter what his health is. We saw how amazing and important Carlos was last October - I mean honestly, I was asking for the nice Chevy and an MVP trophy for him! If we can win these 5 games quickly and let Carlos rest until game one of the NLDS we will be giving him a much easier run at the October he had last year. This could turn out to be incredibly important in the series to come. We cannot afford Bako everyday - not that he is bad, I like Bako - but he certainly is not as good defensively or at calling a game as Ruiz, and we do not need another lefty bat in the lineup consistently.
Pedro vs. Happ:
Now on to a topic I have been giving a lot of thought - Pedro vs. Happ for the 4th spot. And by the way, did John Kruk really ask if Blanton or Pedro gets the ball in game three? Johnny Boy, you played here! You know about our loyalty..Blanton is the answer. Sorry for the deviation...Pedro has been awesome since we signed him. I have really enjoyed watching him and believe the chip on his shoulder, no pun intended, has brought him a long way so far (thanks Omar Minaya). Happ, on the other hand, has been sensational and is in the running for NL Rookie of the Year. Who do we choose for our 4th starter come playoffs? Luckily (I guess..), I had the chance to speak with Tom McCarthy about this the other day as a guest for dinner with him in the Phillies Executive Diningroom (no big deal). McCarthy said he would go with Pedro because of the experience factor and would probably use Happ in spot rotation depending on the match ups in the playoffs. I would put Happ in the bullpen, where we really need help right now, and throw Pedro game four. If Pedro runs into any trouble we have Happ right there to come in for a long relief appearance. Happ has never been a starter in the playoffs and who knows how he will react to the big stage. Additionally, he has shown that he can pitch well out of the bullpen, something that Pedro has not done for a long time outside of the WBC.
A lot of questions with a little amount of time remaining!
Next Series Predictions - Milwaukee for 4 games starting tonight.
J.A. Happ (10-4, 2.77 era) vs. Jeff Suppan (7-10, 4.76) - W, Happ
Cliff Lee (14-11, 2.99 era) vs. Manny Para (10-10, 6.42 era) - W, Lee
Pedro Martinez (5-1, 3.32 era) vs. Brad Looper (13-7, 5.12 era) - L, Martinez
Joe Blanton (11-7, 3.82 era) vs. Dave Bush (5-8, 6.22era) - W, Blanton
Wishful thinking - win 3/4, hope the Braves lose some and clinch the division!