Apr 10, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Brad Lidge pitches during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Washington won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Lidge Should Not Pitch In Any Inning Numbered Nine

The Nationals signed Brad Lidge in the offseason to fill a reliever position in the bullpen. Drew Storen had the Nats closing job, and Lidge was to be used out of the bullpen. There was talk that Lidge could be used as an eighth inning guy to give the team an alternative to Tyler Clippard and to keep from overusing Clipp.

Unfortunately Storen ended up on the 60 day DL and the team needed a closer. Davey Johnson immediately expressed confidently that Lidge could be used along with Henry Rodriguez as a closer until Storen returned. Using Lidge as a closer hasn’t worked out for the team.

After Saturday’s game in Boston, Lidge has an ERA of 6.14. This was Lidge’s first game back from being on the DL, and Davey Johnson probably thought that giving the ball to Lidge with the team up 7-3 in the ninth was a good spot for Lidge to get comfortable in a game situation after just having joined the team. Lidge got one out, walked a batter and gave up a double, scoring the batter that walked. With the Sox within three runs and two outs to work with, Johnson took Lidge out of the game and gave the ball to Clippard to finish the ninth and the game in what had become a save situation.

Before Lidge went on the DL, his ERA with the Nats had ballooned to 5.14. Lidge had two saves and two blown saves in four save opportunities. Lidge’s second save was a tightrope affair, where he gave up a hit and walk before getting the third out. He was flirting with disaster the entire inning. His next outing was his second blown save in a game against the Marlins, where he gave up two runs to allow the Marlins to snake the win from the Nationals.

I attended a memorable Nationals game on July 31, 2010. It was Nyjer Morgan bobblehead night. The Nats were playing the Phillies. The Phillies fans had flooded the ballpark as they usually do, and arrived early enough to snatch up most of the bobbleheads. I didn’t get one despite arriving an hour early for the game.

We sat just behind a very knowledgeable Phillies fan and his wife. We chatted during the game and he displayed a great understanding of the Phillies players. After awhile they gave us one of their bobbleheads, which was pretty awesome.
The Nats entered the bottom of the ninth inning behind by a run. Into the game to pitch the ninth was the Phillies closer, Brad Lidge. The Phillies fan immediately starting worrying. He stated that if Lidge let anyone on base and had to face Ryan Zimmerman, who was scheduled to bat fourth, the Phillies were going to lose the game. He said Lidge could not handle Zimmerman.

Morse was the first batter of the inning, and he singled. The Phillies fan started moaning right then. He said Manuel needed to get Lidge out of there right now. Lidge stayed in the game. After Morgan bunted Morse over to second, Lidge walked Adam Kennedy. Up came Ryan Zimmerman. The Phillies fan said, “If I was at Citizens Bank, I would be heading for the car right now to avoid the rush. We are about to lose this game.” Ryan crushed a 1-1 pitch to deep center field for the game winning three run homer. The disgusted Phillies fan got up and said, “I knew Lidge was going to blow that” and stomped off to the bus.

I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing Lidge blow that save, one of the few he blew in 2010. I also have to admit I don’t enjoy seeing him blow them now.

Lidge used to be a closer. He’s not anymore. Lidge started the 2011 season on the DL and did not pitch until July 25th. By then Ryan Madson was the Phillies closer. Lidge pitched well for the Phillies after coming off the DL, recording eight holds and an ERA of 1.40 for the two months he pitched. The Nats signed Lidge to pitch the seventh or eighth innings, get holds, and perform in the bullpen role he adapted to so well in 2011 with the Phillies. The Nats need to understand that Lidge should not be put into any game in the ninth inning.

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