Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sees it, too.
"It's getting tough," he said following a crushing 7-6 loss to the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium, where Brad Lidge blew his Major League-leading 11th save of the season. "The bottom line is we've got to get better. We've got to close the games out. When you're winning a game in the ninth inning, the winning teams win those games. We're not closing the games out. Everybody out there knows it."
But asked if there is an alternative to Lidge, Manuel said there is not.
Lidge is his closer.
"He was our closer last year and we signed him to be our closer now," Manuel said. "He's struggling. But at the same time, it's hard for us to close the game out. It's tough. It's kind of what we've got. I've got confidence in him. I keep sending him back out there and hopefully he does the job. That's about all I can say. I pull for him every time he goes out there, believe me. I guarantee you that."
But the Phillies, whose magic number to clinch their third consecutive National League East championship remains at five, have just 11 games to play. They need some reliability in the ninth inning.
They need it quick.
The Phillies were 79-0 when leading after eight innings last season. They are 75-10 this season.
"When you get right down to it, you're supposed to win those games," Manuel said. "You're supposed to win a majority of those games. I mean a high percentage of those games. Exactly what percent I don't know, but it's high. I'll check on it. I'll look at it. I'll check and see what they do. Those are our guys. That's what we've got. We'll stick with them."
Lidge is 0-8 with a 7.48 ERA and 31 saves in 42 opportunities. Opponents have hit .305 against him.
But in an even more disturbing trend, since Manuel pulled Lidge from a game Sept. 8 in Washington, he is 0-1 with an 11.57 ERA in five appearances. Opponents have hit .391 against him.
"It's incredibly frustrating," Lidge said. "I'm disappointed, but they hit the ball tonight. They did a good job. Hopefully tomorrow, I'll get another chance to get something started again, but, yeah, I'm definitely frustrated a little bit at a loss, but I'm sure there are some things I can do better."
Lidge allowed a leadoff double to Ross Gload. He got Chris Coghlan to fly out to right field to move Gload to third. He struck out John Baker, but walked Hanley Ramirez to put runners at the corners with two outs.
Jorge Cantu singled to score Gload to tie the game.
Pinch-hitter Brett Carroll followed with a single to score Ramirez to win it.
The loss spoiled four RBIs from Ryan Howard and an effective start from left-hander Cole Hamels, who allowed four runs in seven innings.
Right-hander Ryan Madson, who allowed a run in the eighth, is 5-5 with a 3.33 ERA this season, but is 1-3 with a 7.24 ERA and 8-for-14 in save opportunities. If right-hander Brett Myers were healthy it would seem Manuel would be putting him into some closing situations, but he has a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle. He won't throw a bullpen until Tuesday.
"We're waiting to see how long Brett is going to be," Manuel said. "I mean, right now Brett's not even in the picture.
"We've been hurting in our bullpen for a long time. We've been getting by. That's kind of how it is."
Lidge said he believes he can turn things around before the end of the regular season Oct. 4.
"I definitely do. I still feel good. I'm getting swings and misses, and I'm getting some strikeouts, but obviously, I need to be better."