How early is too early for Lidge?

1) In their last five losses, the Phillies have surrendered eighth inning leads three times, allowing a combined 11 runs in those instances. In none of those situations was Brad Lidge in the ball game. But that could change shortly here down the stretch. Manager Charlie Manuel said earlier this season that he was hesitant to use Lidge for more than three outs, but that his hesitancy would likely evaporate once September rolls around.

Well, September is here, and Lidge says he is ready for an increased work load. He hasn't pitched for more than three outs all season, but he did it fairly regularly during his prime years with the Houston Astros, who always seemed to be in a playoff race come September.

It'll be interesting to see how Lidge's roll changes this month.

2) If you had asked me before 10 p.m. last night whether Cole Hamels would start against the Mets Sunday, I would have handicapped the odds at about 85 percent. But after speaking to him along with other reporters after the game, I'm not nearly as confident. Hamels was given several chances to say "Just give me the damn ball," but never did. That's not to say he doesn't want the ball, just that he hasn't said it. There probably isn't a person in the world more concerned with Hamels' health than Hamels himself, and that's for good reason. The way he framed it was this: it does my teammates no good if I go out there and push my body to a point where it breaks down and I am forced to miss a start or two or even more. I asked if he could use the extra day of rest this week rather than starting against the Mets, and he declined to answer the question. It'll be very interesting to see how this ends up shaking out.

3) Heading into this series, it seemed to be a good opportunity to pick up a game or two on the Mets heading into this weekend's series. After all, the Mets were playing the contending Brewers. The Phillies were playing the, um, non-contending Nats. But all of the sudden, with the way the Mets are playing against Milwaukee, tonight's game is a must-win. A Phillies loss and a Mets win would suddenly leave them three games out. At that point, you are faced with the prospect of having to sweep New York just to draw even in the division.

4) Rich Hofmann looks at Chase Utley's play at the plate.