Lidge isn’t the only weak closing act

Philadelphia Phillies stand-in Ryan Madson(notes) took the ball and a deep breath Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, then got four outs in a 6-5 win. The Phillies come off their 10-game road trip with a different closer than they left with, though they’re not really sure who that is, just that it’s not Brad Lidge(notes).

Today. Probably. It’s all a crapshoot from here.

This will be of zero consolation to Charlie Manuel or Ruben Amaro, Jr., but they already are living one of the central themes of the coming playoffs, that of the (pick one) crazy/heartbreaking/thrilling/pathetic/tortuous ninth inning. So, they’ll have addressed their situation. If nothing else, they’ll be all cried out by then.

Their options are spread from Pedro Martinez(notes) to Brett Myers(notes) to J.A. Happ(notes) to Madson to J.C. Romero(notes) and back to Lidge. Mitch Williams is otherwise occupied.

In the meantime, they need only to scan the postseason landscape to see:

The Dodgers: Despite Lidge’s best efforts, the Phillies don’t even lead their league in blown saves. The Dodgers do, with 26. Jonathan Broxton(notes) had a doozy Sunday. Given a three-run lead in Pittsburgh with a division-clinching party waiting on the other side, Broxton allowed four runs and got a single out. Against the Pirates. One.

The Cardinals: Over the past month opposing hitters are batting better than .380 against Ryan Franklin(notes), giving him an ERA of nearly 8 in that time. Tony La Russa is standing by his guy, though some wonder if John Smoltz(notes) might not be the better option.

The Rockies: Huston Street(notes) has been terrific for Jim Tracy. In fact, so terrific that Tracy on Sunday asked Street – back six days from biceps tendinitis – to get his first six-out save in three seasons.

The Angels: Their bullpen ERA has jumped almost a run from last season, in no small part because Brian Fuentes’(notes) ERA is at least 5 in four of the past six months. Right-handers hit him hard and he’s no sure thing, despite what a league-leading 45 saves might suggest.

The Tigers: Great all year for Jim Leyland, Fernando Rodney(notes) has given up five runs over his past two appearances and is rocking a September ERA of 10-plus.

There are exceptions:

The Yankees: Et tu, Mo? Ichiro(notes) got Mariano Rivera(notes) with a walk-off bomb 10 days ago. No worries here. Rivera’s postseason docket: 117 1/3 innings, 10 earned runs, 0.77 ERA.

The Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon(notes) hasn’t blown a save in three months and in 25 postseason innings has never allowed a run.


Game of the night

Twins at Tigers

Nick Blackburn(notes) (11-11) vs. Rick Porcello(notes) (14-9)

The Twins have played so well they’ve changed my MVP vote. Three weeks ago it was Mark Teixeira(notes) and now it’s Joe Mauer(notes). And while Mauer has had an utterly Mauer September (.386 batting average, .485 on-base percentage), he ranks fifth among Twins in September RBIs, behind Michael Cuddyer(notes) (24), Orlando Cabrera(notes) and Denard Span(notes) (14 each), and Jason Kubel(notes) (13).

The rookie Porcello could be the antidote – Mauer is one for six against him. But, keep an eye on the guy hitting behind Mauer. In eight at-bats against Porcello, Kubel has seven hits, including two doubles.

Wondering about Blackburn in Detroit? He’s 0-3 with an 8.00 ERA in four games (three starts) at Comerica Park.


If the playoffs started today:

Tigers at Yankees

Red Sox at Angels

Cardinals at Dodgers

Rockies at Phillies


Your Monday night primer:

The Angels would clinch the AL West with a win over the Rangers. Ervin Santana(notes) is pitching for a place in the Angels’ postseason rotation, though Mike Scioscia is leaning toward a four-man staff of John Lackey(notes), Joe Saunders(notes), Scott Kazmir(notes) and Jered Weaver(notes).

The Dodgers slink back to the West Coast, losing one game in Washington and then losing three – three! – in a four-game series at Pittsburgh. They’re in San Diego on Tuesday night.

The Rockies take a breath. They host the Brewers in a three-game series starting Tuesday night, Jason Marquis(notes) vs. Chris Narveson(notes).

The Red Sox could clinch their wild-card berth while home in bed. If Josh Beckett(notes) beats the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, they’d need only an Angels’ win to get in. Papelbon could do the Riverdance thing on his patio.

The Phillies haven’t put away the Braves yet. Cole Hamels(notes) gets the ball against the Astros at Citizens Bank Park, where he is 7-3 with a 3.29 ERA.

The Braves host the Marlins. In a year in which Chipper Jones(notes) is batting .272, Smoltz and Tom Glavine(notes) are sent away for good, free agents Derek Lowe(notes) and Kenshin Kawakami(notes) are a combined 22-20, and nobody hits 25 home runs or drives in 100, can the Braves return to the playoffs?

Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Sep 28, 2009