THERE IS actually a statistical term for the situation that Ryan Madson faced on Saturday night, but in layman's terms, it boiled down to this:
Bail us out.
As the lanky righthander took the mound with one out in the sixth inning, the Braves had men on first and second in a game that was tied 2-2. With Gregor Blanco at the plate and the go-ahead run in scoring position, the managerial handbook called for a hard-throwing pitcher who had demonstrated success against lefthanders.
Although Madson had been exactly that type of pitcher for most of his career, the Phillies hadn't used him in such situations for much of the early part of the season.
But in a do-or-die inning against the Braves, Charlie Manuel made the call, and Madson ultimately escaped without allowing a run.
"Madson can pitch out of the back end of the bullpen," Manuel said. "It's just a matter of the situation where we can put him in there."
That could bode well for the bullpen, because for much of the first couple months of the season, the Phillies have appeared hesitant to call on Madson in those situations.
Thanks to the beauty of sabermetrics, there is a statistic that attempts to quantify the importance of the various junctures of the game in which pitchers appear. And of the 129 batters Madson has faced this season, 72 percent of them have come in what are considered "low-leverage situations." Situations like the seventh inning of a game against the Giants in which the Phillies were trailing 8-1. Or the ninth inning of a game against the Padres that the Phillies were leading 7-2.
Offseason acquisition Chad Durbin, meanwhile, has established himself as the team's middle reliever of choice. In addition to throwing 37 2/3 innings, tied for fourth among National League relievers, he has faced 87 of his 153 batters (56 percent) in "medium" or "high-leverage" situations.
But Madson appears to be regaining the form he has had for much of the previous four seasons. And in doing so, he seems to be regaining the confidence of the coaching staff. He hasn't allowed a run in his last eight innings, a stretch in which he's given up six hits and three walks while striking out seven.
After allowing 10 runs in his first 16 2/3 innings this season, Madson has given up just two in his last 16.
Furthermore, he has stranded the last six runners he has inherited after allowing four of the first five he inherited this season to score.
"You've got to have confidence, one in the guy, and he's got to have confidence in himself to be able to put him in situations like that, and Maddy's done a great job lately," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "Hopefully he'll continue."
Early in the season, Madson was at least partly focused on the health of his right shoulder, which he strained last season, forcing him to miss August, September and the playoffs.
Up to that point, he had a 3.05 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 56 innings.
In early April of this season, he was shut down for a few days because of shoulder soreness, and he publicly said he wanted to be cautious with the joint.
Although Madson politely declined to talk about his progress, the results seem to indicate that the shoulder has become less of a worry.
"He was an awful good pitcher for a month-and-a-half last year before he got hurt, and it looks like he's getting that same confidence and same approach back," Dubee said.
A healthy and carefree Madson would only serve to bolster a Phillies bullpen that enters today with the lowest ERA (2.58) in the NL.
Although Durbin has been magnificent in middle relief, there are plenty of situations that call for a pitcher like Madson, who has a higher strikeout-per-nine-innings ratio than Durbin and is better against lefthanders. Lefties hit .241 against Madson and .242 against Durbin in their careers. Madson's strikeouts and opposing batting average are better against lefties than they are against righties.
"We're just going out there with a lot of confidence," Madson said. "That's all you can say. It's like when you golf with somebody who is better than you. You play better."
The Phillies signed 36th-round draft pick Mike Cisco, a righthander out of the University of South Carolina. *