Pedro Martinez had shown flashes of brilliance, in his four starts as a Phillie. He had also displayed maddening inconsistency, as evidenced by his 5.14 ERA. His Friday night start against the Braves was a crucial one, as he continues to compete for a postseason roster spot. Martinez held the Braves scoreless through the first two innings, and the Phillies took a 1-0 lead, on a home run by Ryan Howard. On 70's night at Citizens Bank Park, Martinez was turning back the clock.
Then the predicted rains came. After a sixty-three minute rain delay, the game was, inexplicably, resumed, despite the fact that the rains continued to pour down their liquid misery. A second, forty-five minute rain delay, would follow. When play finally continued, the Phillies took the field defensively, in the top of the third inning. Wait...is that Jamie Moyer's music?
The deposed fifth starter was making only his second relief appearance, and his first since August 18th. Moyer hasn't had many opportunities, since he was removed from the rotation after his August 9th start. He threw six scoreless innings in the first relief outing, and pitched almost as well on Friday night. With his slow-moving pitches keeping the Braves' off balance, and some assistance from a generous home plate umpire (who wanted to get home in plenty of time to watch Metalocalypse ), Moyer permitted only a single run, in four and one-third innings. Moyer allowed four hits, walked no one, and struck out five (!). Infrequent appearances, in rain-delayed ballgames, have been proven to be an excellent fit for the venerable hurler. Perhaps a return to the Rain City for 2010 would be another excellent fit for the veteran.
Thanks to Moyer's strong effort, and a two-run homer by Ryan Howard (not to be confused with his solo homer, two innings earlier), the Phillies had a 4-2 lead, entering the top of the ninth. It was Brad Lidge time! Fortunately, with the opportunity to procure his tenth blown save of the 2009 season, Lidge's outing was more reminiscent of the best moments of his perfect 2008 season. The Phillies' closer retired all three batters he faced, throwing eight of twelve pitches for strikes.
The Phils' victory was a crucial one, as it erased the possibility of a series sweep by the Braves. With an eight-game lead over Atlanta (and Florida), the Phillies are in excellent shape in the quest for their third consecutive division championship. The Saturday Night Special isn't the only thing we haven't seen in Philadelphia, since the 1970s.