Who closes for Philly tonight?

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Or, if they’re tied or losing, who comes out of the pen late?  Lidge? Madson? Even when his usage suggested that he was going with the hot hand (or, in this case, the less cold hand) Charlie Manuel has at least verbally insisted for most of the postseason that Brad Lidge is still the guy. Now? He’s not pretending it isn’t a gut call anymore:

“I don’t want to sound like smart or nothing, but I’m probably going to use him the way I want to, when we get there and how I feel,” Manuel said of Lidge. Then, referring to the pitching coach Rich Dubee, he said, “I’ll do a lot of talking in the dugout with Dubee, and we’ll decide on which one we want to put out there.”

Until now Manuel has always had some basis, however thin, to say that Lidge was really the guy and that Madson was in because of matchups or recent workload or whatever.  But unlike Monday night, the Phillies now face an elimination game with both Lidge and Madson rested.  I’ll be fascinated to see who Manuel calls for if the Phillies are up entering the eighth or ninth inning.

If the Yankees are up?  Well, it’s worth noting that Mariano Rivera only needed 13 pitches to close games three and four, and didn’t pitch at all on Monday.  If the Phillies can’t jump on Andy Pettitte tonight, they are almost certainly going to see Rivera for two innings.  Maybe (gulp) three.

So my advice to the Phillies: score early and score often, because if you’re down late, it’s over, over over.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.