Lidge Blows His Ninth, Still the Closer
Brad Lidge needed just five pitches to blow his Major-League leading ninth save of the season last night in a 6-4 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. He is 0-6 with a 7.33 ERA. That not only is the highest ERA of any relief pitcher in baseball, it is 0.81 earned runs higher than Indians right-hander Jose Veras, whose 6.52 ERA is the second-highest in baseball.
“He’s got to stay with it,” Charlie Manuel said. “He’s got to keep going. I mean, what the hell? That’s all we can do. … That’s where we’re at. That’s our closer. I’ve said that all along. That’s the guy we give the ball to in the ninth inning.”
Lidge has been frustrated previously, but never as visibly upset as he looked last night. He looked beaten. He allowed a leadoff single to Luis Cruz, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Brandon Moss laced a single to right. Jayson Werth bobbled the ball and slipped as he tried to throw the ball into the infield, which allowed Cruz enough time to race around third base to score the tying run and Moss to advance to second. Andrew McCutchen then crushed a 94 mph fastball for a two-run home run to win the game.
“It’s frustrating,” Lidge said. “Obviously, I’ll take the ball 10 days in a row. I want to get out there and compete and get those guys out. Unfortunatey today it just didn’t happen. I didn’t have enough in the tank, I guess.
“I didn’t have anything on the ball tonight. The fourth day in a row for me historically has been pretty bad. I wasn’t able to make an adjustment today and I just didn’t have anything on the ball. I need to be able to make an adjustment if I throw four days in a row.”
Lidge pitched the final three games of the Mets series at Citi Field, but Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee felt that because Lidge threw 11 pitches Saturday, nine Sunday and 15 Monday — Lidge also warmed up Friday — that he could get through the Pirates lineup last night.
Lidge had pitched four consecutive days six previous times in his career: He was 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA (three earned runs in five innings), two saves and two blown saves in those appearances. In Lidge’s four most recent appearances – twice this season, once last season and once in 2007 – he went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (zero earned runs in 3 2/3 innings) and two saves. The other two appearances, which came in 2005 and 2006, he allowed five hits and three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. He went 1-1 with two blown saves.
Manuel supported his closer in his postgame interview, which is not a surprise. This team badly needs Lidge to straighten out before the playoffs, and questioning him publicly is the worst thing he could do. But is there a tipping point in this? If Lidge is still struggling with a week to go in the season, do they go into the postseason with him as their closer? He saved seven of their 11 wins in the 2008 playoffs, but Lidge’s continued struggles would jeopardize their chances at a second World Series championship. But I think there is a good chance they stick with Lidge.
Manuel has said a few times before: show me my options. But maybe he says that because Brett Myers is not back yet. If he returns from the DL and throws the ball well — I think Myers has to be dominant upon his return — he could put pressure on the Phillies to make a change. But Myers won’t rejoin the team until Sept. 1 at the earliest. Will he have enough time to convince the Phillies he is a better, more reliable option than Lidge? (Fans looking for Manuel to name Myers the closer upon his arrival should take a step back. That won’t happen.)
So I think two things would need to happen for Lidge to get bumped at this point: 1) something even more catastrophic than what has happened: a string of blowns saves that pulls the Phillies into a first-place tie with Florida or Altanta. 2) Lidge’s continued struggles with Myers looking dominant at the same time.
Until then I think Lidge is the closer.
Lidge’s nine blown saves are tied with Steve Bedrosian (1986), Jose Mesa (2002), Ron Reed (1976) and Mitch Williams (1991) for the third most in Phillies history. Mark Leiter holds the franchise record with 12 blown saves in 1998. Dick Selma is second with 11 blown saves in 1970.