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Lidge opens door for Astros


Lidge opens door for Astros HOUSTON - Here are some of the things a blown save overshadowed last night: The end of the Phillies' deep offensive malaise. A lineup that overcame the loss of Chase Utley, out with a bruised foot. A quality start by Joe Blanton. Brett Myers' effective return from hip surgery.

No matter what the Phillies do during closer Brad Lidge's bad games, their efforts are always marred by his struggles. With last night's 5-4 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, Lidge has squandered 10 save opportunities this season.

After a game in which Myers looked impressive during a scoreless eighth inning, Lidge is certain to hear renewed, amplified questions about his job security.

"I'm just back there to help," said Myers, before repeating a line he used during his rehabilitation assignment. "I'm not there to take anyone's job."

Lidge's slider had appeared as effective as ever in his previous three appearances, but he could not command the pitch last night.

With one out in the ninth, Lidge walked Geoff Blum, allowed a single by Chris Coste, and walked pinch-hitter Jason Michaels. Michael Bourn then sent a chopper to first, which Ryan Howard fielded and fired home for the second out.

That brought up Kazuo Matsui, who would either lose the game for Houston or seal another failed save for Lidge. Matsui sent a 3-1 fastball to center for a single, scoring two runs to win the game.

Before that, the Phillies' story lines were positive: the end of the lineup's long slump, and Myers' return. The offense entered the game having scored just three runs in the previous four games, but the downturn could not last forever.

Blanton settled down after early trouble, and once Astros starter Roy Oswalt left with back stiffness in the seventh, the Phils ended a 17-inning scoreless drought with two runs. They added another pair in the eighth, taking a 4-3 lead and shoving Myers into a key situation.

He walked the first batter on four pitches, then retired the side with the help of a runner caught stealing.

"It was just a little different," said Myers, who asserted that he felt more comfortable on the mound than he had in at least two years. "Lights are brighter up here. . . . When I was warming up, everything was good. Then I got out there and I started jumping at the plate, trying to do too much. My off-speed stuff wasn't good; I just had to pitch with a fastball. After I threw the first two curveballs, I was like, 'Oh, boy.' "

Still, Myers was grateful for the immediate faith manager Charlie Manuel showed him.

"Definitely, with a one-run lead, thrown out there for the first time, I appreciate the opportunity to do that," he said. "I hadn't pitched in a big-league game in three months, and there you go. There are the wolves."

Those wolves devoured Lidge in the ninth. The closer has insisted of late that, due to mechanical adjustments, he could control his slider better than at any point this year. Last night, he reverted to inconsistent mechanics, which led to poor command.

"The slider that we've been working with, the control just wasn't there," he said. "For whatever reason, I've had a hell of a time getting back into consistently repeating the delivery pitch after pitch after pitch."

Lidge made it clear that his explanations were not sufficient, and that he simply needed to stop blowing saves: "Three good [games], one bad one. Three good ones, one bad one. That's not good enough."

Contact staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or amartino@phillynews.com.

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Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 6, 2009

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