Saturday, July 3, 2010
5. Consistency in closing games
The difference between a World Series Championship in 2008 and a runner-up finish in 2009 arguably came down to one player. Brad Lidge went from "Lights Out" with a perfect 48 closing conversions to becoming a white knuckle adventure.
With the Braves having more talent and the Mets having better health this season, the Phillies must have consistency when they call on Lidge to close out games in order to overtake them.
Both of those clubs have reliable closers who take care of business and the Phillies can ill afford to allow wins to get away in the final frame. And make no mistake, the impact of blown saves extends beyond the won-loss columns to reach into the psyches of the entire ball club.
Lidge has exhibited better command and greater confidence than a year ago, but two blown conversions and six runs in his last four innings of work triggers some unrest. Last night's three run rally with two outs and no one on base in the ninth was reminiscent of last year.
Fortunately, the offense baled him out with their own three spot in the 10th inning to make him a winner and diminish the psychological hit a team feels when defeat is suddenly grabbed from the jaws of victory.
It would be unrealistic to expect anything approaching perfection over the balance of the season, especially considering Lidge's struggles since his 2008 season ending victory leap. However, it seems a must that the Phillies' closer exhibits high reliability and instills confidence throughout the clubhouse.
Regrettably, last night was another step in the opposite direction.