Brad Lidge has blown two of his four save opportunities so far this season.
Henry Rodriguez, meanwhile, has closed out all four games in which he’s gotten the ball in a save situation.
Don’t read too much into those early results, however. Manager Davey Johnson said after today’s game - which the Nationals won in 10 innings after Lidge lost a two-run lead in the ninth - that he still plans on giving Lidge opportunities to close games.
“I still like Brad Lidge,” Johnson said.
After Rodriguez worked a scoreless (albeit, dramatic) ninth inning last night to earn a save, Johnson could have gone back to the fireballing righty again today. But his plan all along was to continue splitting up the save opportunities by giving Lidge a shot at it today.
“Lidge was my guy,” Johnson said. “Henry threw 25 pitches yesterday. Here’s a young pitcher, he’s strong as a bull, he could probably handle it. But it’s too early. I’ve got a gameplan and I’m going to stay with it.”
Today, obviously, the gameplan didn’t work. Lidge entered the game with a 2-0 lead thanks in part to another fantastic outing by Stephen Strasburg, but walked Hanley Ramirez leading off the ninth (after getting ahead in the count 0-2) and then immediately gave up a two-run homer to Logan Morrison, knotting the game.
After then allowing runners to reach first and second, Lidge got pinch hitter Omar Infante to ground into a force out to end the threat. But that wasn’t enough to salvage another poor outing.
“Honestly, right now, I’m not throwing well out there,” Lidge said after the game. “My location’s bad. I’m able to get ahead of guys sometimes, but I’m not able to put them away with the slider I’ve been able to in the past. That was the case with Hanley. With Logan, to be honest, we threw a fastball and it was supposed to be in and he got on it. It’s a combination of not executing a lot and sometimes when I am, they’re doing a good job of hitting it. Especially with lefties, I’m not really fooling any lefties right now.”
Lidge said that his bout of vertigo which he dealt with a handful of days ago is no longer an issue, but his lack of feel for his pitches, particularly his once-deadly slider, sure is.
“I think the last couple years, I’ve thrown a lot more sliders than fastballs, because my slider, I could throw it to any part of the plate any time I wanted,” Lidge said. “I think right now I’m not able to do that. We need to go to the fastball more often. I think my gameplan out there is just a little different right now, and I’m not able to execute the way I want to. But it’s still early enough in the season where if I work hard enough it’ll come around and I’ll be doing well here soon.
“Obviously right now, it’s frustrating. I don’t want to make these guys play extra innings, and I don’t want to blow the game for Stras, who threw great. I’m disappointed with myself. Right now, I’m not happy with the way I’m throwing.”
Overall, Lidge has allowed four runs in seven innings this season (5.14 ERA), giving up seven hits and seven walks in that span.
If there is good news in all this, it’s that Lidge has 11 years of major league experience to fall back on. He’s been through his share of struggles before, and the fact that he’s battled through those rough patches to find success gives him confidence it can, and will, happen again.
“It’s a long season, and probably every one of us to a man unfortunately will go through rough spots in the season,” Lidge said. “But the quicker you can stop it, that’s what kind of dictates whether the season’s going to be a success or not. For me right now, I need to get out there and stop it, and hopefully that will be my next outing.”