Poor Charlie Manuel, he can't make a right move no matter what he does with his bullpen these days. If you think you can get three late outs for the Phillies, head down to 1 Citizens Bank Way and tell them Closing Time sent you.
The beleaguered Brad Lidge(notes) got a day off Wednesday after working four straight games, which meant it was Ryan Madson's(notes) turn to blow a save (Brandon Moss(notes) rode a 2-2 changeup out of the park). Madson's mistake ruined a sterling effort from Cole Hamels(notes); the Phillies eventually won the ballgame on the tenth (courtesy of Ryan Howard(notes)) and handed Madson a vulture victory.
Madson is in the middle of a strong campaign (3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) so there's no need to pile on with him, but you have to wonder if the Phillies will try to get creative as they angle for the playoffs. You look at every other part of this team and it looked poised for a deep run – dynamic offense, solid starting pitching, excellent defense – but the Lidge collapse can't be ignored, and the entire bullpen as a whole hasn't thrown the ball as well as it did during last year's championship. Manuel continues to back Lidge whenever he's asked about the struggling closer, but eventually the organization as a whole might have to push for some sort of change.
Perhaps the bullpen issues won't mean as much if Hamels can get right again. The erratic lefty claims something clicked at the end of his last turn against the Mets and it carried over to bullpen work and then Wednesday's excellent start (8 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K). That declaration might not mean a lot to the fantasy public at the end of the day; Hamels is too good to bench in most mixers, no matter that he's carrying a 4.52 ERA around with him. But at minimum let's give him a close eyeball at home against San Francisco next week.
• J.P. Howell's(notes) season stats earn him a healthy share of cred, to the point that we probably shouldn't worry too much about back-to-back blown saves (he reeled off 13 straight conversions prior to this). He basically did a Lidge impression in his Wednesday implosion at Toronto, walking three, allowing a homer and uncorking a wild pitch. Howell's getting more appearances this year but it hasn't really been a workload increase; working in middle relief, he logged 89.1 innings last year.
• Brian Wilson(notes) was another tired closer resting on Wednesday; Brandon Medders(notes) closed up in San Francisco, working a seven-pitch ninth. The recently-waived Chad Qualls(notes) gave away the lead one inning prior, giving up a game-changing homer to pinch hitter Bengie Molina(notes). Jonathan Sanchez(notes) didn't get a win for the Giants but he was sharp again (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 9 K), continuing to make a case for universal ownership into next year. He's got 70 whiffs in his last 58.2 IP, not to mention the no-hitter from early July.
• Give it up for Randy Wolf(notes), who's continues to show that he's not intimidated by hitter-friendly parks. He gave the Rockies just one run over 7.1 crisp innings Wednesday, adding Coors Field to his conquest list. Here are some of the other cities where Wolf has an ERA below 3 this year: Philadelphia, Chicago (NL), Arizona, Arlington.
The Dodgers went back to their traditional bullpen roles in the victory; George Sherrill(notes) got the last two outs in the eighth inning and Jonathan Broxton(notes) worked the ninth. There was no save at the end of the rainbow for Broxy as the Dodgers were holding a four-run lead.
• It's not uncommon to see a closer struggle when he works in a non-save spot, and Carlos Marmol(notes) wrote that story Wednesday (1 IP, 2 R, 3 BB). It was a bit odd to see Marmol working in a game where Chicago held a seven-run lead but the Cubs didn't break the game open until the bottom of the eighth; sometimes a late rally trips up things. Marmol needed 33 pitches to get through his laboring frame, so it's possible he won't be available Thursday afternoon.
• There aren't a lot of intriguing streaming choices for Friday but here are three options I don't feel bad about: Charlie Haeger(notes) at Cincinnati (hey, it's against Homer Bailey(notes)); Tommy Hunter(notes) at Minnesota; John Smoltz(notes) against Washington (love that NL cooking).
Injury Blog: Hold everything on Jake Peavy's(notes) return; his sore ankle cut short his session Wednesday and it doesn't look like he'll make his Chicago debut on the weekend. … Adam Jones(notes) (back) sat again but Dave Trombley thinks the center fielder might be able to go Thursday. … Everyone knows Alfonso Soriano's(notes) knee isn't right, but nonetheless he played Wednesday and went 1-for-4. … A kidney stone kept Marlon Byrd(notes) out at New York. … NL pitchers haven't stopped Mark Reynolds(notes) this year but the flu has kept him out of action all week. … Justin Upton(notes) (oblique) got off the DL and went 1-for-3. … A tired shoulder kept Travis Hafner(notes) on the bench. … If you had Aug. 26 in the Nick Johnson(notes) DL pool, please head to the window and cash your ticket. … The Mets continue to lose players like Spinal Tap lost drummers. Oliver Perez(notes) (knee surgery) is the latest Metropolitan to call it a season. … Jorge Posada(notes) might be done for a few days after taking a foul ball off his glove hand Wednesday. X-rays came back negative. … Felipe Lopez is day-to-day with a sore foot. … Carl Crawford(notes) (back) thinks he'll be able to go against the Tigers Friday.
Speed Round: Tim Wakefield(notes) stepped in nicely to the Boston rotation, holding the White Sox to one run over seven innings. Wakefield didn't hang around for the decision; the Red Sox won the game in the ninth on David Ortiz's(notes) second homer. … If you saw this coming from Ryan Franklin(notes) (1.07, 0.91, 34 saves), I'd like your help with some lottery numbers. You can say the same thing about Joel Pineiro(notes), who checked the Astros on 17 ground balls. … Two more hits for Chase Headley(notes) Wednesday; he's spiked his walk total this month and is hitting over .300. … Chris Perez(notes) worked a scoreless inning at KC; he hasn't allowed a run over his last 16 appearances. If I were Eric Wedge, I'd consider giving this kid the odd save chance here and there down the stretch.