PHILADELPHIA -- There were encouraging signs everywhere Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
Cliff Lee threw seven strong innings in a 3-1 victory over the Rockies. Jimmy Rollins fell a home run short of the cycle. Ryan Madson threw a scoreless eighth. But perhaps the most encouraging thing came in the ninth inning, when Brad Lidge allowed one hit and struck out two to pick up his 21st save.
"I would say my last five outings, I've felt about as healthy as I can feel," Lidge said. "At this point of the year, it's taken me a long time for me to get back to where I know the ball is going 90 percent of the time at least. I feel real good right now. My [right] knee isn't bothering me anymore. I'm kind of looking forward to the last couple months for the team as well as myself, because I feel real good."
Lidge entered the game 0-4 with a 6.92 ERA, which was the highest ERA of any reliever in baseball. There is no question the Phillies, who left the ballpark with a seven-game lead over the Marlins and Braves in the National League East, need Lidge to return to form as the postseason approaches.
While the Phils have built a nice lead in the division since early July, that has not translated into much work for Lidge. Thursday was just his second save opportunity since July 17. It was also his first save since July 9 without allowing a run.
"It's been kind of a dry spell as far as saves go, but we've been blowing a lot of people out, so I'll happily sit back and put my feet up and watch our offense go to work," Lidge said. "But the biggest thing is when you get that save opportunity, you've got to lock it down."
Lidge struggled with his mechanics against the Cubs on July 22, when he allowed two hits, two runs and two walks in two-thirds of an inning. He said those mechanics have improved. He has a 3.60 ERA (two earned runs in five innings) with three hits, one walk and four strikeouts in five innings in his past five appearances.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.