X

Philadelphia Phillies' Arms, Bats Wake Up to Claim Stake to NL East Crown

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst ISeptember 30, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates the save in the tenth inning against the New York Mets on June 11, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

He sure doesn't look like Superman, but Ryan Madson sure is pitching like him.

With a fastball reaching 97 to 98 mph in the ninth inning, Madson pitched a two-inning save to preserve the Phillies 7-4 victory Tuesday over the Houston Astros.

Phillies rookie left-hander J.A. Happ improved to 12-4 with the win.

Coupled with the Florida Marlins' 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies' magic number dropped from three to one.

A victory tonight and the Phillies will capture their third-straight NL East crown.

A closed-door meeting called by manager Charlie Manuel rallied the troops to an important win.

After the loss Monday to Houston, I feared the worst could happen.

I read Rich Hoffman's blog Tuesday afternoon on the Phillies being tired and read the comments. In retrospect, the one that made the most sense said something like this: "I truly expect Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer to be starting this weekend."

Meaning, it should be wrapped up by then.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Sure, the Phillies could lay an egg, or the rain could knock out the game. Figures, Pedro Martinez is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies.

The worst case, for tonight, is if Martinez pitches four great innings, there's a rain delay, then Tyler Walker comes in and gets shelled.

But as doubtful as I am as a longtime Phillies fan, the Phillies have responded when they had to over the past two years.

Listen to what Charlie Manuel said following Tuesday's game, courtesy of the story by David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News:

"You've got to be tough, and you've got to be mentally tough. I think that's one thing in common I've got with Philadelphia. They always say how mentally tough, or how tough they are, how rough they are? I belong here, then. Because I've been tough, and ever since I've been in baseball, I've been a fighter, and I come to whip your (butt) every day. If I can beat you 100-0, I will everyday."

Spoken only as Charlie can say it. But if you read between the lines, Manuel thinks his team is going to win every night.

It helps that Pedro Feliz broke open a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning with a grand slam, the seventh of his career, giving the Phillies a 5-1 lead.

Jayson Werth followed with a two-run jack the next inning and the Astros' Kazuo Matsui closed the score to 7-4 in the sixth.

Madson got out of a two-on, one-out ninth inning jam by striking out Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence. He's got the stuff and he's found the fire, often pumping his fist when he closes a game.

I know Madson has blown six saves, but that was either when Lidge was hurt or he was recently auditioning for the role. I think if you make Madson the sole closer, he will do the job. Some nights you will have to spell him with another reliever.

What do you do with Lidge? I don't know, and at this point, considering what's on the line, I don't care.

Going into the playoffs, I can see Madson challenging Albert Pujols with a 97 mph fastball down the pike.

Wanna know what that is like?

Just ask Brad Lidge.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!