Trying to fill in the ‘Gap to Pap’

When Phillies fans reminisce about the 2008 World Series, the “Bridge to Lidge,” aka Ryan Madson, is remembered fondly.

Madson and Lidge departed after a devastating loss in Game 5 of the NLDS. Jonathan Papelbon closes for the Phillies these days. The fiery right-hander has been good enough to earn an invitation to the All-Star Game. However, not one Phillies reliever has covered the “Gap to Pap.”

“That’s the biggest reason why the Phillies are in the spot they’re in,” an NL scout said. “They’ve blown so many games in the seventh and eighth inning.”

That’s been the difference between last and second place for the Phillies. Antonio Bastardo has been a huge disappointment as a setup man after having a great 2011 season. Michael Stutes and Jose Contreras are out with injuries. Chad Qualls was a total bust.

So it’s up to the Phillies’ core of young pitchers to bridge the gap until — or if GM Ruben Amaro Jr. makes a trade.

“I’m doing my best out there,” rookie Jake Diekman said. “I know what we have to do. We have to get [Papelbon] the ball.”

Diekman has pitched well in spots, but he’s also lost his control in key situations. The Phillies need to upgrade the setup man. Will they do so?

“If they have any hope at making a run at the second wild card, they have to trade for a solid reliever,” an NL Scout said.

There are some interesting names out there. Jonathan Broxton has pitched well of late for Kansas City. J.J. Putz has been respectable for the Diamondbacks. Rafael Betancourt is pitching well at the ripe old age of 37 for the Rockies. And then there is Astros closer Brett Myers? Could the Phillies bring back Myers to fill the “Gap to Pap” and salvage the season? Stay tuned.

The slate

Roy Halladay made his much-anticipated return last night. Here’s rest of the week:

Wednesday, at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.

Cliff Lee (1-6, 3.92 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-5, 2.84)

Friday, vs. Giants, 7:05

Vance Worley (5-5, 3.47) vs. Tim Lincecum (3-10, 5.93)

Saturday, vs. Giants, 4:05

Cole Hamels (11-4, 3.07) vs. Matt Cain (10-3, 2.56)

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