Nationals stage comeback, top Phillies in 10th

Nationals stage comeback, top Phillies in 10th
August 21, 2011, 10:01 pm
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WASHINGTON Brad Lidge stopped and stared trying, it seemed, to wish the moment away. Instead, when he realized that it was all too real, Lidge cast his eyes forward and moved silently from the mound and into the Phillies dugout at Nationals Park.

Certainly it was a familiar feeling for Lidge and the Phillies, only not so much during the 2011 season where everything has been going so well. Actually, chances are in a couple of days, a week or even when the regular season is over with, no one will remember much about this past week or the three-game series in Washington where the Phillies picked up three blown saves and two walk-off defeats over the course of 20 innings.

The latest batch of weirdness came Sunday afternoon where Lidge got his first loss of the season in the 5-4 extra-inning defeat. Lidge fell into a short trance moments after he plunked Jonny Gomes on the left elbow with a pitch to force in the game-winning run with one out and the bases loaded.

Afterwards, Lidge said he wasnt so much stunned by the way the game ended as he was by the fact that his slider got away from him.

Normally thats a pitch for me that when I release it I know what its going to do, Lidge said. That one didnt go where I thought it was going to go. I throw that pitch a lot and it didnt go the way I was hoping.

Gomes, apparently, was just as stunned as Lidge about how the game ended.

I don't know if it slipped out of his hand or what, but I definitely didn't roll into it by any means, Gomes said. Getting hit was last on my to-do list in that at-bat. But it worked out.

Then again, with the way things shook out over the past few days for the Phillies, a walk-off hit by pitch should have been predictable. Sure, it was a rare and unique way to decide a game, but it is odder still for the Phillies to in such a predicament.

The Phillies had blown a ninth-inning lead just once all season until last Tuesday when Sundays starter Roy Halladay, 52-0 in such circumstances, lost a one-run lead in the last inning during a defeat to the Diamondbacks.

From there, closer Ryan Madson suffered his second blown save of the season on Friday night in Washington when he coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth inning on a walk-off grand slam to Ryan Zimmerman. The strange part about Madsons defeat was that he routinely got ahead of hitters and consistently threw strikes, but still couldnt get the final three outs.

Flash to Sunday when lights out lefty Antonio Bastardo, closing because Madson was unavailable, was one strike away from ending the game and notching his ninth save of the season only to see his two-strike slider disappear over the left field fence for a game-tying, two-out homer for Ian Desmond.

Strangely, the homer came on a slider, which Bastardo says is a pitch he says hes used on Desmond often in the past.

I dont think it was that good of a pitch. It was a little bit up in the zone, said Bastardo, who had allowed one run in his last 11 games and had held the opposition hitless in the previous five outings. I made that pitch a couple of times to him before, but he made the adjustment.

So wouldnt you know it that Bastardo recovered to strikeout the side on the next hitter?

Just to make it all a little extra strange has been the unpredictable weather the Phillies also have contended with. With three rain delays in the past four days totaling five hours, 55-minutes, the Phillies have had outings cut short, starters flip-flop games after warm ups had been completed and a guy in his major league debut (Michael Schwimer) pushed to eat up some innings for the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.

Worse for the Phillies, the Nats two walk-off wins this weekend came after delays that cost the Phillies their starting pitcher. In Fridays loss Roy Oswalt never got to take the mound when it was decided to flip-flop his scheduled start with Kyle Kendrick after a two hour, 22-minute rain delay three batters into the game.

This time the Phillies lost Halladay after just five innings and with a one-run lead.

Its definitely frustrating, said Halladay, who gave up two runs in the first inning. You can't really map it out. It's not ideal. It kind of messed us up for about a week here. We'll be glad when the weather moves out. As a starter, to be stuck going five innings is never fun.

Neither, of course, is blowing late leads.

Headed into the series in Washington, the Phillies had just one blown save in the ninth inning and just two losses when carrying a lead into the ninth inning. In three games against the Nats they doubled that total and even had a pair of blown saves in Sundays loss.

For whatever reason they tend to come in spurts, Lidge said of the teams failure to close them out in Washington. You go back and you make adjustments and realize that you dont need to adjust too much because we have been throwing the ball really well, doing a good job. When something like this happens, the last thing you need to do is think you need to change a whole lot. I think were all feeling very good about what were doing and the pitching staff as a whole has done a great job. Theyre hot right now and theyre hot late in the game and they gave it to us again today.

In other words, the Phillies are just chalking up the weekend as one of those things that happens during the course of the season.

After all, closers and the weather are never predictable.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

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