- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 12, 2009

Penning the best storyline of September

This is what the final month of the season in modern, post-realignment major league baseball is all about - teams that can’t stand one another locked in heated playoff races, playing every night before frothing, towel-waving, cowbell-clanking, rally stick-pounding zealots.

Hmm…

Neither of the only two close races - Dodgers-Rockies in the NL West and Red Sox-Rangers in the AL wild card - is particularly compelling. The loser of the NL West battle likely will win the wild card, and Boston and Texas don’t play each other the rest of the way (and do you really think upstart Texas is going to overtake the Sawx?).

But there is one place where the anxiety, excitement, loathing and unpredictability have been nearly nonstop: the Phillies’ bullpen. It’s too bad MLB Network’s reality series on the team’s relievers, “The Pen,” ended weeks ago, because the drama is higher than ever - at closer, to be specific. As outstanding as Brad Lidge was for the World Series champions last season, he has been that miserable a year later.

With a major league-high 10 blown saves, Lidge seems to have lost his job - for now - after throwing the ball everywhere but over the plate Tuesday against the Nationals.

It’s become a guessing game as to who is going to get the call in the ninth inning. Lidge, who has a 6.97 ERA and .295 batting average against? Ryan Madson, who has blown five saves of his own? Brett Myers, the closer in 2007, who just returned from hip surgery? Pedro Martinez, who has three career saves? Jamie Moyer, whose age clocks in at roughly his fastball speed?

After steadfastly sticking with Lidge, manager Charlie Manuel isn’t sure what to do now. When his team took a 6-5 lead into the ninth inning at Nationals Park on Wednesday, Lidge began to loosen up, hoping to redeem himself for the previous night. The phone rang moments later, though, and it was Madson who walked in, leaving Lidge to sit and wonder.

Madson has since earned three saves in a row, but if his struggles resurface, Myers might be next in line. Who knows? Hours after Manuel said he still sees Lidge as a closer, not a setup man, the pitcher was brought into a blowout Thursday night. If a pitcher is called a closer but doesn’t close, does that still make him a closer?

Point is, there are a lot of questions and few answers - the best part of September baseball. So even though the playoff races are making C-SPAN look like high theatrics, Philadelphia has no shortage of drama.

She said what?

“They canceled my match for today! U all have to wait until tomorrow!! (I have to wait too) I love u all for sticking around to watch!! Xxx S.”

- Serena Williams on her Twitter feed after Friday’s play was rained out

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