The Philadelphia Phillies could secure a third straight NL East title in the next few days, but they can’t be thrilled about the uncertainty at the back end of their bullpen.
Their starting rotation is suddenly having some problems, too.
Pedro Martinez(notes) was scratched from his scheduled start 24 hours before Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, so Kyle Kendrick(notes) will start for the Phillies as they try to inch closer to another postseason berth.
Lee gave up four runs in the first inning and three more in the fifth during an 8-4 loss, and the left-hander is 2-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last six starts. He had been 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in his first five starts with the Phillies after a July 29 trade.
Martinez - another former Cy Young Award winner added to the roster during the season - also got off to a brilliant start with his new team, as Philadelphia (89-64) won each of the first seven starts by Martinez before he lost last Saturday at Atlanta.
But in that game, the 37-year-old allowed three runs and seven hits before being pulled after three innings with a stiff neck, and he decided Friday not to risk a speedy return to the rotation.
“I’m not going to put anything in jeopardy,” Martinez said. “I’m going to be smart.”
That leaves Kendrick (2-1, 2.70 ERA) to make a spot start, just his second of the season. He beat the New York Mets on Sept. 13, allowing two runs in 7 1-3 innings in a 5-4 win.
Brad Lidge(notes) earned the save in that game despite allowing two runs and three hits in the ninth, but he wasn’t so fortunate Wednesday at Florida, getting his 11th blown save and eighth loss in a 7-6 defeat.
Lidge has a 7.48 ERA this year after converting all 48 of his save opportunities, including playoffs, last season, and the Phillies announced Friday that he’s no longer necessarily the team’s closer.
“I don’t think any decision’s been made officially,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “I think (manager Charlie Manuel is) going to put people in to pitch in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning that he feels are going to be most effective. It doesn’t necessarily mean Lidge isn’t one of those guys. He still could be one of those guys.”
Lidge pitched the seventh inning Friday, allowing one run and two hits.
Despite their late-inning woes, the Phillies’ NL East lead over Atlanta is six games, and their magic number to clinch the division title is four with nine games to play.
The Brewers (76-78) have been eliminated from postseason contention one season after their first playoff appearance in 26 years - which ended in four games in the division series against Philadelphia.
Still, Prince Fielder(notes) shows no signs of slowing down at the end of another productive year. Fielder has four of his 43 home runs in his last six games, and he drove in four of his 136 RBIs on Friday. He has the major league lead in that category, one ahead of Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard(notes).
“I notice it, but I’m not trying to compete with him,” Fielder said.
Milwaukee will have Braden Looper(notes) (13-7, 5.12) on the mound Saturday as the right-hander tries to bounce back from a woeful outing. He gave up seven runs in four innings of a 10-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday.
Looper pitched six shutout innings in a 3-1 win at Philadelphia on April 22.