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Phillies have luxury of rock-solid 'pen

Phillies have luxury of rock-solid 'pen

PHILADELPHIA -- Manny Ramirez made his presence known early on Thursday night, when he smacked a first-inning double that missed being a home run by about a foot.

The Phillies' bullpen wanted to make sure that the Dodgers' left fielder didn't go out the same way he came in.

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"He's very dangerous," manager Charlie Manuel said.

So dangerous that the sight of Ramirez in the eighth inning of a one-run game prompted Manuel to hold a strategy session on the pitcher's mound with reliever Ryan Madson, even though there was nobody on base. The Phillies had a one-run lead, built with sixth-inning home runs by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell and seven solid innings from ace Cole Hamels.

But Ramirez was in a position to take it all back with one swing.

"I wanted to make sure we knew how to pitch him and what we wanted to do," Manuel said. "Manny was the tying run."

There's no telling when Ramirez is going to strike. He joined Los Angeles at the Trade Deadline and spent the final two months of the season terrorizing National League pitchers, hitting .396 with 17 home runs.

But one thing the Phillies have been able to count on lately is their eighth- and ninth-inning, one-two punch of Madson and Brad Lidge.

Madson, who has stepped into the eighth-inning setup role toward the end of 2008, allowed only one earned run in the final month of the regular season. After finishing the regular season 41-for-41 in save opportunities, Lidge has remained perfect in the postseason.

PHEELIN' IT
It should have come as no surprise when the Phillies bullpen pitched two scoreless innings to close out the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS. The NL's best bullpen has put up some astounding numbers this season:
When leading after 6 innings: 68-10*
When leading after 7 innings: 70-9*
When leading after 8 innings: 83-0*
Led NL in ERA: 3.22
Second in NL in wins: 33
Second in NL in saves: 47
Fewest HRs allowed in NL: 37
Pitchers to notch at least one save: 6

After the meeting on the pitcher's mound broke up, Madson's much-anticipated battle with Ramirez didn't last long. Madson dealt the left fielder an 85-mph changeup that he lined straight at third baseman Pedro Feliz for the second out of the inning.

"He said, 'Make good pitches on him,' " Madson recalled from the mound meeting with Manuel. "If you're going to come in, make sure it's in there. If you're going to go away soft, make sure it's down and away."

Lidge upheld his end of the bargain in the ninth, retiring the Dodgers in order to send Philly to a series-opening win.

The same bullpen that helped the Phillies go 79-0 when leading after eight innings and 66-9 when leading after seven innings in the regular season is doing more of the same in the postseason.

"It gives us a lot of confidence," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "We want to put our bullpen in a good situation to where they can come out and just do their thing. Obviously, we want to go out and score as many runs and make it easy."

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["NLCS" ] }
{"content":["NLCS" ] }