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Lidge Blows Another Save as Phillies Lose Opener to Pirates

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For five innings, Joe Blanton and Ross Ohlendorf were tied up in a 2-1 pitchers duel with the Phillies leading on shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ 2 homers on the first 2 pitches he saw in the game. Then 1st baseman Steve Pearce solved Blanton for a 2 run homer in the sixth to put Pittsburgh up by 3-2.  Pinch hitter Ben Francisco and centerfielder Shane Victorino grabbed a 4-3 lead for the Phils in their ninth inning on dramatic RBI extra base hits after catcher Carlos Ruiz’s leadoff double. But closer Brad Lidge came on in the Bucs’ ninth first giving up the tying run, and then the winning ones on centerfielder Andrew McCutchen’s 2 run walk-off bomb to centerfield as  Lidge blew another save and the Phillies lost their opener to the Pirates by a 6-4 score. 

With the loss, the Phils lead in the NL East division race remained at 7 games as Florida, who edged the Mets, and Atlanta, were edged by San Diego, are tied for 2nd place.  The Mets remained 16 1/2 games back in 4th place.

In light of the growing number of Lidge’s blown saves and lost ballgames, as in Tuesday’s 7 pitch double-whammy, and the concerns his performance is causing regarding the September stretch and the post-season, one has to wonder if the Phils erred in not making a move to acquire closer Billy Wagner from the Mets.  AP sports writer Jimmy Golen reports on Yahoo sports that Wagner was traded Tuesday night to the Boston Red Sox for two players to be named later.

Phillies Nation’s Amanda Orr provides a recap on a tight game turned ugly in the Pittsburgh ninth:

On the very first pitch of the game, Jimmy Rollins’ line shot cleared the right-center field seats to put the Phillies on the board.  On the first pitch in his second at-bat, Rollins homered again.  Two pitches, two home runs.

Joe Blanton pitched a quality start; he lasted six innings allowing three earned runs.  However, all three runs came on home runs: Ryan Doumit’s solo shot and Steve Pearce’s two-run blast.  Blanton gave up six hits, walked two, and struck out seven.

Ross Olendorf was just as effective.  He pitched 6.1 innings and gave up two runs on five hits.  The Phillies were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on base.  The Phillies trailed 3-2 heading into the top of the ninth.

[Matt] Capps had trouble in his last appearance against the Phillies.  In that game, he blew a 7-3 lead thanks to home runs by Matt Stairs and Ryan Howard.  Tonight, neither were due up in the inning, but the bottom of the order provided the damage.  Carlos Ruiz started the rally with a double.  Ben Francisco drove Ruiz home to tie the game at three.

With two outs, Shane Victorino tripled, scoring Francisco from second. In Little League, coaches stress that the first step is always back.  Center fielder Andrew McCutchen did not follow those rules and took the first step in.  It was costly. The ball sailed over his head and the go-ahead run scored.  McCutchen would get that run back… and more.

With Lidge closing, nothing is a sure thing.  Capps already blew his save, but the truth is Lidge has been worse this year.  Luis Cruz singled to start the inning against Lidge.  That was the beginning of the end.

Brandon Moss singled to right fielder, Jayson Werth.  Werth went to scoop up the ball, but bobbled it.  Pinch runner,  Brian Bixler, rounded the bases and scored from first.  Werth fired to the plate. The throw beat the runner, but was off-line so Ruiz could not apply the tag quick enough.  Tie game.  Blown save, Brad Lidge.

The next batter was McCutchen, who had a chance to redeem himself.  He did that, and more.  He hit a long drive to straight-away center field.  Victorino kept going back, but so did the baseball.  It cleared the fence for a walk-off home run.

Lidge blowing saves is becoming a re-occurring nightmare for the Phillies.  He is now 0-6 with nine blown saves and an ERA standing at 7.33.  There has to be thought as to whether Lidge’s days as a closer are numbered.  Either way, the Phillies dropped a game to the lowly, last-place Pirates, a team they must take advantage of.

Blanton’s line for the game was six innings, 113 pitches, 3 runs on 6 hits with the 2 homers accounting for the 3 runs — good enough to win had he gotten any offensive support other than from Rollins.  He walked 2 and struck out 7.  Reliever Todd Walker threw 35 pitches and scoreless seventh and eighth innings to get the game to closer time.  He walked 2 and struck out 2. 

It seems more and more obvious that the Phils must make a move for a closer.  Was letting Wagner pass a mistake?  As Brett Myers continues his rehab outings, questions abound as to whether he is the answer.  Which Myers will return to the Phillies; the Myers who went to the bullpen and saved game after game down the stretch in 2007? Or the Myers who had early trouble with pitch velocity in both 2008 and 2009?  Or the Myers who returned from a month’s stint in the minors to win 7 of 11 decisions from late July through September in 2008?  It seems plain that the Phils must come up with a plan “B” considering Lidge’s season and Myers’ on-again, off-again track record.

Ohlendorf, who went 5 2/3 innings giving up 3 runs on 5 hits in his previous outing against the Phils, matched up well against Blanton outside of the 2 pitches which Rollins nailed.  He went 6 1/3 innings throwing 100 pitches and giving up 2 runs on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 6.  Capps, who blew the save in the ninth and was on the hook as possible losing pitcher, ended up as the winning pitcher as a result of McCutchen’s 2 run walk-off homer.

For the scores of all of Tuesday’s games, click here.

The Phillies hope to even the series at a game apiece in Wednesday’s game 2 battle of lefthanders with Cole Hamels opposing Pat Maholm.

For all of Wednesday’s games, click here.

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