The Philadelphia Phillies could clinch their third consecutive NL East title sometime this weekend. Their postseason run, however, might not last nearly as long as last season’s if they can’t find a reliable closer.
Philadelphia (88-63) missed a chance to reduce its magic number from five on Wednesday as Lidge recorded his major league-worst 11th blown save in a 7-6 loss at Florida. He gave up two runs and three hits in the ninth inning, capped by Brett Carroll’s(notes) game-winning RBI single.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Lidge said. “I’m disappointed. They hit the ball tonight. I’m a little bit at a loss. I’m sure there’s some things I can do better.”
Last season, Lidge converted all 48 save opportunities - including seven in the playoffs - during Philadelphia’s run to its first World Series title since 1980. Counting the postseason, the Phillies were 89-0 when leading after eight innings in 2008, but are 75-10 this year.
Lidge lost his role as closer earlier this month, however the right-hander seemed to get a second chance after Ryan Madson(notes) had his sixth blown save Sept. 12. Lidge responded by converting three consecutive attempts last week.
Still, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is concerned.
“Lidge and Madson, right now, that’s what we’ve got in the back of our bullpen,” he said. “Lidge was our closer last year and we signed him to be our closer now. But he’s struggled and it’s hard for us to close a game out. It’s tough.”
While Manuel worries over who will finish out games, J.A. Happ(notes) (10-4, 2.77 ERA) gets the start and try to move his team closer toward another division crown while boosting his NL rookie of the year candidacy.
Happ leads all rookies in ERA, but hasn’t helped himself lately with consecutive losses in late August and early September and a strained right oblique that caused him to miss two starts.
The left-hander returned Friday against Atlanta, and allowed one run and five hits while throwing 51 pitches over three innings before being pulled for precautionary reasons. The Phillies went on to a 9-4 win.
Happ, who will make his first start against the Brewers, allowed three runs and three hits over 1 2-3 innings in a 6-1 loss to them on April 23.
Milwaukee (75-77) has already been eliminated from postseason contention, but are still searching for a third straight winning season for the first time since 1978-83.
Jeff Suppan(notes) (7-10, 4.76) will try to help his team close in on that milestone by snapping a five-game losing streak to the Phillies that dates back to April 9, 2005 when he was with St. Louis. The right-hander avoided losing his third consecutive start Saturday when he allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts in a 7-2 win over Houston.
The Brewers averted a home sweep by Chicago on Wednesday as Prince Fielder(notes) and Jody Gerut(notes) homered in a 3-2 win. Fielder has homers in three of his last four games to give him 42, and leads the NL with 131 RBIs.