Manager Charlie Manuel made a tough decision in last night's 5-3 Phillies win over the Washington Nationals: He pulled closer Brad Lidge out of the game before the game's conclusion.
It was the right move, apparently. Normal set-up man Ryan Madson collect two 0-2 counts with 95-MPH fastballs, then got the Nationals to commit to two changeups for strike out and ground out, respectfully.
Manuel and Lidge both have said that Lidge is still the closer. But if you listen to Manuel closely, the door was open for another option.
In part of a quote in today's Philly.com story by Andy Martino, here is what Manuel said about loyalty and his closer:
"... I’ve been very loyal to him, and I’ve stuck with him. I did everything I think possible to get him going. There is no way I would ever lie to him, because I don’t do that, and I don’t have a history of doing that.
“But at the same time, we’ve got to win the games. The best way we’ve got to win the games now, if that includes Brad is not out there to close, then I guess that’s going to be my decision."
Bully, bully, Charlie.
I remember when Manuel sat down the then-reigning league MVP Jimmy Rollins in New York for not running out a ball; what the team did to loyal pitcher Jamie Moyer when the team brought in Pedro Martinez.
Loyalty is important to Manuel. Lidge, out of anyone, needed the longest of leashes since his perfect 48-for-48 save season (including the postseason) last year.
But winning is everything. As I stated in my last story, if the Phillies were to get swept by the Nationals, the Mets would come into town and literally chomp on the reeling Phillies.
Charlie is not going to let it happen.
The Phillies are in an unfamiliar position. The rest of the division has not stepped up to challenge the Phillies, and the reigning World Series champions have a six-game lead with a little more than 25 regular season games remaining.
The past two years the team has won the division crown in the last week and last day, respectively.
The whole town is calling for the Phillies to replace Lidge.
I wanted to see a national perspective and watched "Pardon the Interruption," featuring Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon.
Kornheiser said that the Phillies had the luxury of the regular season to figure out the closer role. But, and I agree, he added, you can not have a shaky Brad Lidge in the postseason.
Here is the problem and I think Manuel will handle it: Lidge has two more years after this season on his contract with a club option in 2012.
His history is one or two bad seasons followed by a great season.
You can not pull the plug on Lidge completely this season.
I suggest a bullpen by committee, or have the eighth-inning pitcher start the ninth and bring Lidge into close, or start Lidge and bring in another pitcher.
Kornheiser and Wilbon suggested Pedro Martinez as the closer, but the idea is flawed. Martinez has primarily been a starter his whole career and he usually takes the first inning to find out what his stuff is like.
Most of the runs he has given up this year have been in the first inning.
Who do I like? Ryan Madson.
I know he was shaky in the closer's role when Lidge was injured earlier this year. But last night he set up the hitters better, running two 0-2 counts and following them up with balls for outs.
Lidge was absolutely brutal last night: single, hit batter, wild pitch and walk, before he was taken out with one out in the ninth.
In the next five upcoming save opportunities, Lidge should have about three save opportunities.
Either way, they better figure this thing out before the playoffs.
Step off the Lidge, my friend.
** AP Photo by Tom Mikalek