It is the responsibility of Manager Charlie Manuel to put his team, and his individual players, in position to succeed. In Tuesday night's walk-off loss in Pittsburgh, Manuel failed to do either, at least in regards to Brad Lidge. Pitching for the fourth (!) consecutive game, Lidge failed did not record an out, as the Pirates rallied for a 6-4 win. Given the impressive performance by the Phillies to even create a save opportunity, and the (last) place the Pirates reside in the standings, this loss was a particularly frustrating one.
The fatigued closer did not have his good stuff, and failed to adjust. But he never should have been put in that position, with other options (Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre) available, to pick up/combine to pick up the final three outs. Perhaps the real mistake was made Sunday, when Lidge pitched in a non-save situation? Either way, the Phillies lost a game they should have been able to win. Lidge, his confidence buoyed by three consecutive strong outings, saw his ERA rise back over seven (7.33), and he added a ninth blown save, and a sixth loss, to his season's record. Lidge's strong weekend is all-but-forgotten, as the cries for his removal from the closer's role continue.
Almost forgotten amidst the fury sparked by the walk-off loss were some impressive individual performances. Jimmy Rollins lead off the game with a home run, on the first pitch he faced. On the second pitch he faced, Rollins hit another homer. Starter Joe Blanton did not have his good stuff, but managed to scrap through six innings, allowing only three runs. All three runs came via the home run. Blanton was a bit wild, throwing only sixty-nine of his one-hundred thirteen (!) pitches for strikes. More accurate home plate umping could have saved Blanton a run, or two, or at least helped him keep his pitch count down. Tyler Walker followed Blanton with two scoreless innings (two walks/two whiffs), before Lidge's blown save.
The Phillies looked to be en route to another, come-from-behind victory, when they turned a 3-2 deficit, into a 4-3 lead, in the top of the ninth. The key hits were a pinch-hit double by Ben Francisco, and a Shane Victorino triple. Pirates' closer Matt Capps was charged with his third blown save. Capps wound up with his third win, when Manuel's questionable move helped lead to a Phils' loss. Hopefully, Cole Hamels will get better results in Wednesday night's rematch, and we won't see Lidge for a fifth consecutive day.