That ninth inning happened quickly, and contained a lot of weird stuff worth breaking down. Johnny Damon’s smart baseball was the key. With the inning nearly over, Damon fouled off five pitches, and guided the ninth pitch of a game-changing at-bat into left field for a single.
“The whole thing just came down to a really good at-bat by Damon,” said Brad Lidge. “He fouled off some good sliders.”
After the single came a moment that will be long remembered, and long-maligned in Philadelphia. With Mark Teixeira batting, Damon stole second. Upon arriving there, he saw third baseman Feliz on the base, because the infield had shifted to defend against the lefthanded batter. With no one covering third, Damon continued.
OK, let’s slow down on this play. It seemed like Lidge should have covered, though no one would say it—except Damon.
Here are quotes from the relevant people. “It’s the catcher or pitcher,” said Charlie Manuel “Evidently, there was some miscommunication there….Usually it’s the catcher tries to get down there.”
Said Lidge: “To be honest, that’s not really something you go over a lot. I don’t know who is supposed to cover on that.”
Neither did Feliz. “That’s a play, we never got anybody to say, OK, you got to go out there, you got to go here.”
Damon expected to see Lidge on third. “We have talked about it throughout the year, especially when Mark is up,” he said. “I was just trying to be aggressive and get into scoring position, and it just worked out where there was a throw. The third baseman covered (second), and the pitcher did not,” cover third.
Jimmy Rollins deflected blame from Lidge to himself. `”I take responsibility for it,'' Rollins said. ``I make sure the pitcher knows that he knows on a steal he has to cover third. At that time I didn’t really mention anything to Brad, so when he made the pitch in his mind it was just a regular steal. But with the way the defense is set up it’s my job he makes sure he knows to go to third. I’m the captain of the infield. That’s my job.”
Lidge unraveled after that. He hit Teixeira, then allowed a double to Alex Rodriguez and a single to Jorge Posada. And that, folks, was your ballgame.
Hey, the Phillies could not escape their issues the past two nights. Two very talented pitchers, Lidge and Cole Hamels, had tough seasons. It made sense that they would struggle at some point during the postseason. It certainly doesn’t make sense to trade either one of them, as some agitated emailers have suggested. You trade players when their value is high, not after they under-perform. Those guys could very well help the Phillies in 2010. This season, however, was apparently un-redeemable for the two pitchers.