Lidge trying to reestablish control
Closer 6-for-6 in saves since DL, but giving up walks, runs
PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Lidge says that nothing hurts. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says that his closer's stuff is good.
But even after a disabled-list stint to rest a sprained right knee that was supposedly causing his early-season woes, Lidge continues to struggle.
With the Phillies already trailing the Cubs by three runs in the ninth inning on Wednesday, he allowed two runs on two hits, two walks and a hit batsman in just two-thirds of an inning in a 10-5 loss.
In 11 games since being activated, Lidge is 6-for-6 in save opportunities, but he has walked nine and allowed seven earned runs in nine innings (7.00 ERA).
Lidge said that, recently, he has been spinning off his front side. He is pulling off his pitches too early, sending his body to the first-base side of the mound and his pitches to places he cannot control.
"It's like you're getting the job done, but you're not happy with how you're throwing -- that's kind of how I feel right now," Lidge said. "My control is not where I want it to be right now, and I need to get it better."
Closers generally don't like pitching in non-save situations, and to a certain extent, Lidge is no exception. Over his eight-year career, he has an ERA of 2.89 in save situations and 3.96 in non-save situations. He thrives off the adrenaline that comes with the pressure.
Manuel called on Lidge to give him some work Wednesday. Because of the All-Star break, the 32-year-old had thrown just 2 1/3 innings since July 10. The Phillies' bullpen was also taxed thanks to a 13-inning game on Tuesday and Jamie Moyer's five-inning start on Wednesday.
"Other guys need some rest -- that's part of my job also," Lidge said. "Your job is to get three outs in an inning. ... No matter what the score is, you've got a job to do."
He executed that job flawlessly in 2008, posting a 1.95 ERA and, including the postseason, converting all 48 save chances.
This year, though, has been different for the two-time All-Star. He has blown six saves in 19 tries, and his ERA stands at a bloated 7.20.
"It's been two games good, one game bad. Two steps forward, one step back," Lidge said "I would have also assumed that I would be a little more locked in by this point. So I think I just need to keep getting out there and throwing."
Not every pitch on Wednesday was errant. Lidge struck out the first batter he faced, Alfonso Soriano, on a 94-mph fastball.
Next up was second baseman Andres Blanco, whom Lidge hit. But that was not a mistake, per se.
"[It] was actually right where I wanted it to go," Lidge said. "And he just dove over the plate and happened to run into it. ... Apparently he's a diver."
But Lidge would surrender a walk, back-to-back singles and, after striking out Ryan Theriot, another walk before being replaced by Ryan Madson.
As he searches for a consistent release point and, with it, consistent results, Lidge has not lost the confidence of his manager or his teammates.
"You know what? The guy's still good -- I wouldn't want to step in the box against him," center fielder Shane Victorino said. "Everybody struggles in baseball. Everybody goes through these phases. To do what he did last year, it's almost like he set the bar so high.
"I'd give him the ball. He's not designated your closer for no reason."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.