If Lidge is “the guy” who was that masked man ?by Joseph Birmingham
The Phillies came out of their slump tonight in typical Phillies fashion. There was a moment when it seemed every batter that stepped up to the plate hit the ball out of the park. 5 solo home runs provided just enough support to Pedro for the Cy Young winner to get his fourth win this year as a Phillie. This team needed a wakeup call. The series in Houston was brutal, and no offense to Washingtonians, but the Phillies really did not need to lose to the MLB worst Washington Nationals.
Several writers have commented this year that the Phitens rely too much on the long ball, citing their issues hitting with men in scoring position and calling out their pitching for not being able to close or save games. A lot has been made of the Angels with their bevy of .300 hitters. The truth is, there are few teams in the history of the league that have been this effective a run producing machine.
I admit, there are many more dingers than drives down the middle of the ballpark, but you know what ? Fans love the home run, so why not give them what they want ? And it seems to be winning games the majority of this season. Seriously though, the Phillies need to settle down and enjoy tonight’s efforts but get ready for the final push to close out the season. They still have a good shot at getting to the World Series, but in order to win it all for the second year in a row, they need more consistency. They need to realize every team that meets them during the post season is going to be gunning to beat the world champions,.
The other teams and managers will know the Phillies weaknesses, and I can see a scenario where teams will issue numerous intentional walks, just to get to a situation where the Phillies need the clutch two-out single or sac fly to drive in the important run. You can’t hit a home run if the opposing manager is smart enough to not pitch to you. That won’t bode well for their success if this team is not ready to perform under less than optimal circumstances, and beating up on the NL basement dwelling Nationals may make them feel better, but it doesn’t make them any more qualified to win the Series.
Tonight both Utley and Ibanez hit their 30th of the year, and Werth hit his 32nd. Now there are 4 Phillies with 30+ homers and 80+ RBI’s, putting them in the top 15 players in the league. 6 Phillies rank in the top 20 with 75 or more runs scored, when you add in Rollins and Victorino . That means over 25% of the power and production in a 16 team league is coming from this club. So they might not hit for average, and they may not drive in base runners, but they hit and score and outperform the rest of the National League according to these numbers. No other team has more than 3 players ranked in the top 20 in any category, let alone all three.
So here is hoping, the Phillies continue their long ball hitting ways, the pitching stays just healthy enough and the crafty manager works the talent he has to his best advantage. The Phillies have only had one losing streak of more than 4 games this year, another important factor when you consider the 5 or 7 game series that make up the post season. They rebound from most losses well, and just got over a brutal road trip that may have helped them as far as the law of averages goes. They still possess the best road record in baseball and are on track to have the best overall record in the National League, so it is hard to be over critical of them at this point. The only true question mark remaining is Lidge, who Manuel asserts is still his “go to guy” and this is key, because any hopeful champion needs a closer they can depend on. If Lidge is put in to close the bottom of the ninth and gives up 2 or 3 runs, the offense doesn’t get the chance to come back out and smash home runs to salvage the game. Lidge will need to be at his best for the next month if we are going to repeat as World Series champions in 2009. Tonight he failed to earn his three outs again, fortunately Madsen came in and picked up the save. Makes you wonder what Manuel meant when he said earlier that Lidge was still the guy, hard to be “the guy” if you cant get the job done