If the Phillies picked up a bullpen piece in late July, who gave up just one run over his last 11 1/3 innings for a 0.78 ERA, there would be some buzz surrounding the reliever as the playoffs approached.
Brad Lidge made his initial appearance July 25 after missing the first half of the season recovering from a partially torn rotator cuff. The former closer, perfect in 2008, has been lights out in middle relief. Those aforementioned numbers don’t lie.
There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Lidge, but he may play a critical role. With Antonio Bastardo struggling over the last few weeks, the Phils could use an experienced, reliable reliever in the eighth inning. That could be Lidge’s gig.
“I’ll do whatever they ask me to do,” Lidge said. “[Ryan] Madson has been pitching great and we want him to keep doing what he’s doing [as the closer]. With the younger guys, this time of year isn’t easy. [Michael] Stutes is going through this for the first time and Antonio has been with us, but not like this. I’ve been around long enough to give those guys some advice and fill whatever role the team wants me to fill.”
Even though Lidge’s fastball is considerably slower than his ’08 heater, he has been effective thanks to the slider.
“I’ve had to locate it like I have because my fastball isn’t as firm as it once was,” Lidge said. “What’s good is that I have such a good feel for the slider since I throw so many of them. I feel very good throwing the slider and fastball. I picked a good time to have that feel.”
Rivals see Phils as team to beat
Despite an eight-game losing streak toward the end of a terrific regular season, the Phillies are the clear favorites to win their second World Series title in four years. Even fierce NL East rivals agree on that.
“They’ve been there, and they’ve brought in pitching and lineup help, so they have to be considered among the best,” said the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman. “They have playoff experience and that has to help. I like their chances. In the playoffs, you never know. The Phillies sure have the stuff to get it done.”
The Marlins’ Logan Morrison also likes their chances.
“How can you not like the Phillies’ chances?” he said. “They have all the tools to win. Teams will be gunning for them and they know that. Never count the Phillies out because they just keeping coming and coming at you. They never stop.”