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Call to Madson opens closer questions

Call to Madson opens closer questions

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PHILADELPHIA -- Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we might just have baseball's first closer controversy in November.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel most certainly didn't want to spin it that way after his club claimed an 8-6 victory over the Yankees in a must-win Game 5 on Monday. And his postgame comments sidestepped the inquiries quite well.

But as true as the old adage states: Actions speak louder than words.

Brad Lidge didn't get the call in Monday's save situation. In fact, he was never summoned to warm up. Not when his team led by four runs. Not when that lead was shaved to three. Not when the Yankees sent the tying run to the plate -- twice.

Nope. There Lidge sat on the Phillies' bullpen bench, watching Ryan Madson wiggle through some ninth-inning trouble and in the end do what Lidge couldn't 24 hours earlier.

"I wanted to bring Madson in," Manuel said afterward. "I wanted to see how he goes, and I kind of wanted to just give Lidge a break tonight if I could."

What Manuel did not clarify was exactly what prompted the need for such a break. Was it motivated by a physical issue, with Manuel concerned by the fact that Lidge needed 30 pitches to finish one inning on Sunday? Was it a mental break that was in order for a closer whose already nightmarish season somehow managed to find a way to spiral into even further depths with his Game 4 breakdown?

And then the biggie: Is this break for Lidge a permanent one?

To the latter question, Manuel hedged. However, by the time the Phillies' skipper got to the end of a 168-word, roundabout answer to the question, it sounded as if he had not entirely lost his faith in Lidge.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

"He's been our closer for ... this is his second year, and I don't see us moving him out of that if you want to know the truth," Manuel said. "I figured I can play with him and Madson right now, especially if things are not going good. But at the same time, Lidge has been our closer. I mean, I see him as our closer."

Yet, for the first time this postseason, he wasn't on Monday night. Madson got the call with his club clinging to a three-run advantage and needing three outs to seal it. He had been just 10-for-16 in save situations during the regular season, with that lack of sustained success likely the only reason why he hadn't taken the closer role permanently from Lidge already.

"I was ready to go either way," said Madson, when asked if he anticipated the call in a save situation. "I was geared up, ready to go. I wasn't sitting around, hanging out."

Madson needed two dozen pitches to get through what turned out to be a much more adventurous inning than anyone in red and white would have preferred. Still, he got the job done, making him the first pitcher not named Mariano Rivera to get a save in this World Series.

With Yankee runners on the corners and no outs, Madson pitched to contact. He used his sinker to induce a critical double play off the bat of Derek Jeter. He then struck out Mark Teixeira with a runner on base to end the game.

"I'm not going to walk many guys, especially in that situation," Madson said. "I'm just going to give them something to hit. I can give up one run, two runs, just not three."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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