September 21 Philadelphia Daily News:
“JUST PASSING out rally towels doesn’t automatically create a playoff atmosphere, not even if the schedule has thoughtfully matched the top two teams in the National League East, with the season boiled down to a 2-week sprint, another sellout crowd and a full set of postseason implications ranging from winning it all to going home early still in play.
For all that, the mood down at the Sports Complex was a bit tepid for most of the evening last night. Maybe folks were still emotionally exhausted from the Phillies‘ stunning comeback against Washington Sunday, which concluded shortly after the Eagles hung on for dear life to beat the Lions. Maybe it’s just because it was Monday. Maybe people around these parts just expect the Phillies to finish first.
Then, in the ninth inning, Brad Lidge was called on to preserve a 3-1 win over the Braves. With each out he recorded, the intensity increased. And when he struck out Derrek Lee swinging to end the game, padding the Phillies‘ lead to four games with 11 to play, the roar of approval from the packed blue seats was loud and heartfelt.
Afterward, though, not so much. Lidge’s 1-2-3 save went unremarked upon in manager Charlie Manuel’s postgame postmortem. Which, in a way, is a silent acknowledgment of just how far Lidge has come.
When he came in last night, there was a hum of anticipation. But it wasn’t that long ago that his appearances created churning stomachs and palpable anxiety.
How soon we forget.
Through July 31, Lidge had a 5.57 earned run average and had blown four of 14 save opportunities. The next day, at Nationals Park in Washington, manager Charlie Manuel had this to say about his beleaguered closer:
“You know something? I look at that and I’ve got to give him a little rope. I’ve definitely got to show him that I’m willing to stay with him and we’ll see what happens there. I think he understands. I think, right now, he definitely wants to prove he’s that man and he can still do it and that he’s good for our team and he can help us and he wants to keep his closer’s role. I feel like we’ve definitely got to give him some time.”
At the same time, he made it plain that he wasn’t going to let any one player cost the Phillies a chance at a fourth straight division championship.”
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