Last night the Philadelphia Phillies fought to play another day. Behind a gritty effort from their dinged-up ace, the Phillies took advantage of some defensive miscues by the Giants then rode their best bullpen arms to victory.
Roy Halladay pitched six without his best stuff before giving way to Jose Contreras. Well-aged as he might be, Contreras and his diving split-fingered fastball recorded two outs and a base hit, eventually giving way to lefty specialist J.C. Romero. Romero did his job, retiring Aubrey Huff to end the 7th inning.
Fast-forward to the 8th inning – Charlie Manuel followed the script by calling on right-handed setup man Ryan Madson. Madson, frankly, is awesome. He’s easily the Phillies best reliever. Check out this awesome work by Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley examining how Madson does it with his fastball-changeup combo. Though the Phillies pay Brad Lidge the big bucks to rack up saves, it was Ryan Madson who did all the work on Thursday night.
Ryan Madson got the call to preserve a one-run against three of the Giants best hitters. First up was wunderkind Buster Posey, hero from the night before. Though Madson fell behind 2-0, he peppered the zone with two quick strikes to even the count. Posey fought off a good fastball away before succumbing to Madson’s heat. One down.
Next up – the dangerous Pat Burrell. The ex-Phillie feasts on fastballs and knows Madson well from his time with the Fightins. Whoops. Swing and miss, foul ball, swing and miss. Burrell swung through two great fastballs down and away, fouling off the only hittable pitch he saw. Have a seat, Pat.
The red-hot Cody Ross stepped in with two down. Though he just missed with the first offering, Madson promptly threw the next three pitches right past Ross. Two called strikes in great spots before a big whiff ends the inning.
Three dangerous hitters, three quick and borderline-pathetic at bats. Brad Lidge came on to close out the 9th inning. the benefit of an extra insurance run in his back pocket while battling the bottom of the Giants order. Madson pitched in a bigger spot even without considering the relative strength of the hitters he faced.
While it is easy (and fun!) to point out perceived errors in managerial judgement, one can’t help but credit Uncle Cholly for his usage of Madson in this instance. He used his best pitcher in his biggest spot, though he did so almost by default.
Brad Lidge is the capital-C Closer for this team, so the 9th inning is his sole domain. Guys like Madson don’t get near the credit or recognition they deserve until they start racking up the counting stats like saves. For example, there was exactly one wire photo of Ryan Madson from last night, compared to six for Lidge.
Getting big outs from your best reliever is all fans want from their managers, regardless of the inning. Good on Manuel to pull it off without incident, deploying his best arms at crucial times. Ryan Madson will be closing for somebody in the immediate future, last night proves he is more than up to the task.