08/12/09 12:53 AM ET
Francisco's homer lifts Lidge, Phils in 12
Closer's struggles continue as he allows tying run in ninth
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
It might have been difficult to remember that following Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Cubs in 12 innings at Wrigley Field, but a song from The Lonely Island blaring in the visitors' clubhouse served as a good reminder. Ben Francisco hit a game-winning home run to left field to win the game to partially erase the memories of just two Phillies hits through the first 11 innings and Brad Lidge's Major League-leading seventh blown save of the season.
"I'm not happy with how it went, but I'm happy we got the win," Lidge said.
The Phillies, who maintained their 3 1/2-game lead over the Marlins in the National League East, had a crazy day from the jump. Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer expressed his unhappiness the club demoted him to the bullpen Monday to make room for Pedro Martinez, who makes his Phils debut Wednesday night.
Then the game started and Cubs right-hander Rich Harden had a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings. He walked Carlos Ruiz with one out in the sixth and two batters later, he lost the no-hitter, shutout and lead when Jimmy Rollins crushed a 1-0 fastball to right field for a two-run home run to make it 2-2. The Phillies took a 3-2 lead in the eighth when Cubs right-hander Carlos Marmol loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman. Marmol walked Ryan Howard to force in the go-ahead run.
The lead stood until the ninth, when Lidge walked Kosuke Fukudome to start the inning.
"I guess I could have made them a little closer so they could be called strikes," Lidge said of the pitches to Fukudome. "I was definitely frustrated by it. I'll just leave it at that. But the bottom line is it's a leadoff walk in a one-run game and it kills you."
After Ryan Theriot sacrificed Fukudome to second base, Milton Bradley laced a single to right-center field to score the tying run.
It was Lidge's first blown save since June 6, but his continued struggles must be a concern for Philadelphia with 52 games to play. Lidge is 0-4 with a 7.29 ERA, which is the highest ERA of any reliever in baseball. His 75 percent saves completion percentage is the third-worst in the Majors.
The theory early in the season is that inflammation in Lidge's right knee caused him problems. He was 0-3 with a 7.29 ERA and 13 saves in 19 opportunities before he went on the 15-day disabled list in June. Opponents had hit .306 against him.
The DL stint was supposed to right the ship and to some extent it had. Lidge is 8-for-9 in save opportunities since he returned from the DL. But he also is 0-1 with a 7.31 ERA, and opponents have hit .276 against him.
"Lidge is kind of a confidence kind of guy," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I keep saying he's going to get into a groove, and once he gets into a groove and everything he'll be OK."
But it is mid-August.
It is getting late.
"Well, I might keep saying that until the end of the [regular] season," Manuel said. "What the hell? I might be saying that on the last day of the season. I don't know. He's our closer. What the hell? We've got to get through this. That's how I look at it."
That is how Lidge must look at it, too.
"It's kind of two steps forward, one step back, for whatever reason," Lidge said. "Nothing is hurt. I'm getting good movement, good action on my pitches. But there have been a couple sliders I've left up in the zone. That's been a little inconsistent for me, but my fastball has felt as good as it has felt all year. I feel healthy and I feel good. I would expect to be doing better than I have been doing."
Thankfully for Lidge, he worked out of the inning without further damage and Tyler Walker, Scott Eyre and Chad Durbin combined to throw three scoreless innings in relief before Francisco hit a slider off Cubs closer Kevin Gregg for a home run.
"It was a 1-1 slider, right at the bottom edge of the zone," Gregg said. "That's kind of where we try to make our living. He just happened to hit it in the basket."
It was a grind, but it was a victory.
"It felt good to get a big hit like that in a pennant race," Francisco said. "I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to be playing baseball for a team with a chance to go to the playoffs."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.