Game Four was a microcosm of the Phillies’ 2009 season. Starter not named Cliff Lee gives up too many runs in too few innings, middle relief does a decent job of keeping the game close, the Phillies catch up, Brad Lidge wraps the game up with a nice bow tie for the opposition.
Eleven blown saves. At least one run allowed in 30 of his 67 appearances during the regular season.
The fear that came along with Charlie Manuel’s continuing to rely on Lidge was that their 2008 untouchable superstar would come in in a critical spot in the playoffs and — well, you know the rest. That fear came to fruition tonight, even after Lidge rather handily retired the first two Yankees in the top of the ninth inning.
Johnny Damon had what is known as a “professional at-bat” when he fouled off five Brad Lidge offerings to work the count to 3-2 after eight pitches. On the ninth, he hit a line drive that dropped in front of left fielder Raul Ibanez for the single. What would unfold next is atypical, but given Lidge’s season, perhaps not surprising.
With the right-hander on the mound, Mark Teixeira came up to the plate in the left-handed batter’s box. Due to that, the Phillies shifted their infield towards the right side, leaving Pedro Feliz at shortstop and covering second base on a stolen base attempt. Damon attempted and succeeded to steal the base, and because Lidge failed to cover third base with the shifted infield, Damon dashed past Feliz for the free extra base.
Still, a runner on third base with two outs is not terrible news — it just means that Carlos Ruiz has to be sharp on Lidge’s slider in the dirt. And that is perhaps why Lidge was victimized, as he hit Teixeira to put runners on the corners for Alex Rodriguez. He then threw a first-pitch low-and-inside fastball to get ahead of A-Rod.
Perhaps Rodriguez was looking for another fastball because he knew that the slider was less of an option with the runner on third base. Nonetheless, Lidge threw another fastball and it was laced past Ibanez in left field for a go-ahead RBI double.
The Yankees would tack on two more runs when Lidge threw four fastballs out of five pitches to Jorge Posada. The fourth fastball was lined into the left-center field gap, scoring Teixeira and Rodriguez to up the score to 7-4. Posada was thrown out trying to advance to second base.
It is a devastating loss for the Phillies as they once again showed their resilience when Pedro Feliz hit a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the eighth off of Joba Chamberlain. That hit would have been added to Ryan Howard’s go-ahead double in Colorado and Jimmy Rollins’ walk off against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton, but it went for naught. Chase Utley’s dominance against C.C. Sabathia is also lost as a result of Lidge’s ninth inning collapse.
The Phillies now find themselves down three games to one with three games left to play, all of which they must win if they want to repeat as World Series champions.
Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.