Two mistakes cost Lee, Phillies dearly
Lefty gives up two three-run shots; Lidge happy with outing
MILWAUKEE -- The Phillies probably pictured a late September night like Friday at Miller Park when Cliff Lee would hand the ball to Brad Lidge.
Lee would pitch the first eight innings.
Lidge would pitch the ninth.
But Friday night's 8-4 loss to the Brewers materialized much differently. Lee allowed nine hits and seven runs in six innings and Lidge, who has lost his closer's job for the second time this month, pitched the seventh inning when the Phillies trailed by five runs. The Phils' magic number to clinch the National League East remains at four. Unless the Phillies win and the Braves lose Saturday and Sunday against the Brewers and Nationals, respectively, the Phillies will have to wait to clinch their third consecutive division championship next week in Philadelphia.
Hey, as long as they clinch, right?
But Lee has struggled recently. He went 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in his first five starts with the Phillies. He allowed just 24 hits, three earned runs and six walks and struck out 39 in 40 innings. Opponents hit just .175 against him.
But in his past six starts, Lee is 2-3 with a 6.35 ERA. He has allowed 49 hits, 24 earned runs and three walks and struck out 29 in 34 innings. Opponents have hit .336 against him.
"His first [few] games here were really, really good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That was because he had command to both sides of the plate. He's had some trouble doing that. Anytime somebody [struggles] it's a concern. If you have a not-so-good outing or whatever, that doesn't concern me. If you go three or four, yeah, I'd like to see him pitch like he did the first three or four times. But unfortunately, that doesn't happen. Tonight he made some mistakes."
Lee said he thought he generally located his pitches fairly well, but with two notable exceptions.
He threw a 2-2 cutter over the plate in the first inning to Mike Cameron, who hit a three-run home run to left field to give Milwaukee a 3-0 lead. Lee threw a 2-0 changeup in the fifth inning to Prince Fielder, who hit a three-run homer to right field to give the Brewers a 7-2 lead.
"It came down to two pitches costing us the game," Lee said.
Lee has thrown 226 innings this season, which leads the Majors. He is third in the Majors with 449 1/3 innings the previous two seasons.
|"I made a mistake on a 1-2 pitch to McGehee. Aside from that, it actually felt really good. I made some good pitches to Prince and was able to take something out of it, to be honest. For me, it was a much more important outing than if I go out there and, yeah, nobody scores, but I threw a ton of sliders and didn't really accomplish a whole lot. An outing like that I need as much as anything right now."|
|-- Brad Lidge|
That is a lot of work, but he said it is not a factor in his struggles.
"I feel strong, if that's what you're getting at," Lee said. "I feel as strong as I have all year. That's what you work all offseason for is to prepare for a long season and hopefully something extra there at the end. I feel like I've done everything I need to do to be in a position where I'm at right now."
Lidge, who is 0-8 with a 7.51 ERA, 31 saves and 11 blown saves, replaced Lee in the bottom of the seventh.
This wasn't the first time Lidge had lost his job. Manuel pulled him in the ninth inning Sept. 8 in Washington when he got into trouble. He pitched in the eighth inning two days later in an 8-7 loss to the Nationals. Manuel said at the time that he wanted to pitch Lidge in low stress situations until he straightened out. But Manuel felt good enough about Lidge that he pitched in save situations in his next four appearances.
He went 0-1 with a 14.73 ERA, three saves and one blown save in those appearances. Opponents hit .421 against him.
Lidge pitched Friday with a specific purpose: throw fastballs. He threw 16 pitches, 12 of which were fastballs. On Wednesday in Florida, where Lidge blew his 11th save, Lidge threw 22 pitches. Just four were fastballs.
"Getting out there right now and facing a bunch of righties and throwing a ton of sliders isn't going to do me a whole lot of good, because the only thing I need to work on right now is command," Lidge said. "When you start falling into very obvious patterns, the hitters start getting more confidence because they know what's going to come. Today was a big day for me to go out and throw a lot of fastballs, and that's what I did."
Lidge allowed a leadoff single to Corey Hart, who eventually stole second. Hart scored on a two-out single from Casey McGehee. Lidge has allowed at least a run in each of his past five appearances and at least a hit in his past eight. He has not had a 1-2-3 inning since Aug. 30 against Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park.
"I made a mistake on a 1-2 pitch to McGehee," Lidge said. "Aside from that, it actually felt really good. I made some good pitches to Prince and was able to take something out of it, to be honest. For me, it was a much more important outing than if I go out there and, yeah, nobody scores, but I threw a ton of sliders and didn't really accomplish a whole lot. An outing like that I need as much as anything right now.
"As much as throwing good in a one-run game, I need an outing like that, too, because chances are I'll be throwing more sliders maybe. But what I need to establish right now is a fastball. Charlie said, 'I thought you got some good work.' I said, 'Keep giving me the ball. It doesn't matter the situation. I need to get myself ready to pitch this postseason.' It doesn't matter to me if it's a one-run game or we're down by seven or whatever. Work like that is very productive for me."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.