This one is hard to write.
As the Phillies now sit on the brink of elimination – the season truly hanging in the balance – there are several what-if’s to look back on that occur throughout an at bat, a game, and even a series. There were many throughout this gut-wrenching Game 4 loss that now has the Phillies in a 3-1 series hole.
What if Brad Lidge throws Johnny Damon a 3-2 slider after two consecutive foul balls on fastballs? What if Lidge or Carlos Ruiz cover third as the rest of the Phils infield was in a shift? What if – before this game even starts – Charlie Manuel tabs Cliff Lee to start this game?
All of those what-ifs are completely moot as the Yankees demolished any sort of hope the Phillies had of regaining momentum in this series by winning 7-4.
In the eighth inning, with the Phillies trailing 4-3, Pedro Feliz gave hope that this would again be the series everyone thought before it began by hitting a solo home run off of Joba Chamberlain. With a tie game going into the ninth, and spirits high, the old Brad Lidge struck again.
Damon would come to the plate in that ninth inning following two quick outs; a pop out by Hideki Matsui and a strikeout by Derek Jeter. Lidge found himself up in the count 1-2, but Damon waited out two pitches that were overthrown by the Phils closer, and the count was 3-2. The Yankees left fielder then fouled off two pitches into the seats before finally catching up to a 94-m.p.h. four-seamer that dropped into left for a base hit.
Mark Teixeira came to the plate, and the shift was on for the Phillies defense. Damon capitalized by stealing second base, then taking third after Lidge and Ruiz failed to cover the base. Teixiera reached base after being plunked by Lidge and Alex Rodriguez stepped up in a most crucial position.
Rodriguez jumped on an 0-1 fastball and bounced it off the left field fence to score Damon. The Feliz home run became a distant memory.
Jorge Posada followed that up with a two-run single of his own, and was thrown out at second base, although the damage was more than evident. The Yankees took a 7-4 lead, and just like that, there was no air left to breathe.
The greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, came in to finish things off in the ninth inning as he has done so many times before. Three straight putouts by Teixeira at first base ended things for the Phillies late on Sunday night, and possibly for the 2009 season.
Lost in the crushing defeat was the ballsy effort put forth by Joe Blanton. Big Joe went six innings, giving up four earned runs while striking out seven batters. He was not unhittable by any means, however, he kept them in the game, which is all you could ask for. Chase Utley continued his domination of CC Sabathia, but in the end his solo home run was not enough.
Lidge’s meltdown is another perplexing reminder of just how quickly things can go south. One day ago, we saw the same sort of disintegration from Cole Hamles. The two darlings of the 2008 postseason have proven to be two of the Phillies Achillies Heels this year.
It’s not over, but it sure is close. The Phillies pride themselves on being a resilient club, but games like these are daggers. Do they have a three-game winning streak left in them? The comeback begins tonight at 7:57.