Over at Beerleaguer Jason Weitzel asked readers the other day whether or not they thought the Phils were peaking too soon, a fair question given the tear they'd been on before last night's ninth inning collapse in Pittsburgh and the lead they've opened over their closer pursuers.
Still, my answer would be no and my reasons would be three, as in three straight losses to Florida at home a mere two weeks ago. Only two weekends ago they looked really miserable.
Another reason they haven't peaked too soon would be Brad Lidge. No one with a closer like Lidge can be said to have peaked period. He's certainly capable of losing a lot more games going forward given what he's done looking back.
I certainly have no idea if he's hurt or has completely lost his confidence. We've been told ad nauseum that neither is the case. What I do know is batters are laying off his slider, which is normally about a 58 foot pitch with Lidge, and are sitting on his fastball, which isn't one of those intimidating heaters and lately has a pronounced proclivity to arrive right smack dab in the middle of the plate where is resides briefly before beginning its return journey over some outfield wall.
Now, everyone except Charlie Manuel, at least publicly, is awaiting the second coming of Brett Myers as a relief pitcher. Before injuring his hip and electing to have it surgically repaired in mid-season, Myers had been giving up home runs at a prodigious rate before he went down. He'd also lost something on his fastball, going back more than a season. Blame it on his hip? Well, why not, everyone else seems to feel that explains his awful record prior to the surgery?!
Somehow, I am not comforted by the prospect of the always-erratic Myers riding to the rescue. The trouble is, as everyone has observed, there aren't any real alternatives at hand. Ryan Madson is not a closer and has proven so whenever presented with the opportunity to step into that role. [This post was written before he gave up a game-tying home run to Pittsburgh in the ninth inning tonight, costing Cole Hamels a well-earned victory.] No one else on the current staff qualifies either. At this time of year there aren't a lot of closers sitting at home, domestically or in the Dominican Republic, waiting for a call from Ruben Amaro. The only legitimate closer out there was Billy Wagner, coming off Tommy John surgery, pitching for a hated division rival, and a serious malcontent when he called Philadelphia home a few years ago. That shouldn't have happened and didn't!!
The trouble is Lidge has been horrible, as likely to pour gasoline as water on any fire he encounters. Giving him the ball in a tight game is very risky and everyone, his manager included, knows it. Right now, though, he's all the Phillies have until Brett Myers comes trotting in from right center field, protests of "not wanting to take anyone's job" notwithstanding. I can't wait. On second thought, I can.