When the Phillies started their title defense, the more reasonable fan predicted that although Brad Lidge had a season for the ages in 2008, the perfection would likely end, and we as fans could look forward to a blown save throughout the season. Or two. Maybe three. At most four, but absolutely no more than four, right?
Starting pitcher Cole Hamels finally had put the pieces together to pitch a decent game. Despite a third inning mistake to the Braves catcher Brian McCann, Hamels soared through six innings, allowing just two runs. McCann’s two-run shot was the only damage allowed by Hamels who allowed just three hits.
Hamels wasn’t dominant, but he was effective. He struck out only two and walked four, but his ability to work out of jams was refreshing. The Hamels we have become accustomed to would have folded under the pressure of frustration. This game was different.
Hamels pitched well enough to win, and despite his season long infection of lack-of-run-support-itis, when he exited the game, he had a 3-2 lead.
The Phillies offense had plenty of wasted opportunities. Overall, they were 1-12 at the plate with runners in scoring position but only left six on base. The Phillies twice left runners stranded at third base that reached third with no outs.
Despite their woes at the plate, they managed seven hits off of Braves starter, Kenshin Kawakami, including triples from Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz.
In the seventh, Jayson Werth gave the Phillies the advantage when he belted his 24th long ball of the season to left-center. The Phillies looked as if they may be on the way to winning their second consecutive series.
The Braves bullpen came in with one-out in the seventh and proceeded to shut the Phillies line-up down, allowing just two walks in 2.2 innings of work. The Phillies middle-relief wasn’t bad either, allowing just two base-runners in the seventh and eighth innings.
Into the ninth the Phillies went clutching a 3-2 lead. Fans watching across the Delaware Valley were clutching their chests as Brad Lidge entered the game and promptly surrendered a lead-off single. To be fair Chase Utley should have been able to make a play on the ball, but watched the ball scoot under his glove as he was playing deep in the over-shift position.
What happened next caused fans to clutch their stomachs.
With Garret Anderson on first-base, Atlanta’s Matt Diaz layed down what was a routine sacrifice bunt. Overly anxious to make the play, Lidge failed to field the ball cleanly and then proceeded to air-mail a throw to first in which he had no play on. Anderson scored and Diaz went to third as Lidge earned himself not only the blown save, but two errors as well.
With no one out and a runner at third base, Lidge walked the next two batters, one intentionally. He then got Ryan Church to strikeout swinging, leaving him just a double-play away from reaching extra-innings.
With one out and the infield playing up to prevent the run from scoring, Omar Infante singled through the hole at short, past a diving Jimmy Rollins and the Braves completed the come back.
It was Lidge’s eighth blown save and his fifth loss of the season, wasting what was a quality outing from starter Cole Hamels and the opportunity to bury the Braves a little deeper in the division race.
The Phillies will try to get the series win tomorrow in the rubber match.