LOS ANGELES - Brad Lidge's jaw was clenched tighter than usual yesterday, and his voice was softer.
"Maybe I shouldn't feel as confident, I don't know, but that's the only way I know how to do it," Lidge said after the Phillies lost 3-2 to Los Angeles in 12 innings at Dodger Stadium.
The game ended with Andre Ethier's second walk-off hit in two days, this one a home run against Chad Durbin. But Lidge's second blown save of the weekend, and sixth of the season, was more troubling for the team.
With one out in the ninth and the Phillies leading 2-1, Lidge threw a slider to pinch-hitter Rafael Furcal. The shortstop had never homered off the bench in his 10-year career, but he drove Lidge's pitch toward the right field seats. Jayson Werth leapt, his arm fully extended, but the ball scraped the top of his glove and went into the seats.
After converting all 41 of his regular-season save opportunities last year and maintaining perfection throughout the playoffs, Lidge has struggled for most of 2009. Before Friday, however, he seemed to have recovered, having not allowed a run in five appearances. He had not blown a save since May 24 against the New York Yankees.
But on Friday night, though the Dodgers benefitted from an extra out because of third baseman Pedro Feliz's two-out error, Lidge allowed a game-ending hit to Ethier. With a chance to stabilize yesterday, he lost another lead.
Some of Lidge's blown saves have been fluky, the result of poor defense, home runs that barely cleared an outfield fence, or weak hits that eluded fielders. Those specifics have allowed him to remain confident; yesterday, though, he didn't care about specifics. He just wanted to stop losing.
"The results are starting to frustrate me," he said, before reiterating that he could not identify the problem, other than bad luck and a few mistakes. That lack of clarity makes his issues more difficult to understand and address.
"If there was something you could say - 'Oh, I keep walking a whole lot of hitters and they're getting them in because I'm walking the leadoff guy,' or 'I don't feel as confident in my stuff, so as a result I'm walking guys,' [that would make it easier]," he said.
"It's kind of a bad combination of stuff. That being said, you can say whatever you want about it, you still have to get the results."
Manager Charlie Manuel said that Lidge would remain his closer, reiterating his season-long position that a change would further damage the pitcher.
"If you rest him or do something else with him, put him somewhere else, I think that could hurt his confidence," Manuel said. "Speaking right from the heart, that's the way I look at it, because I played 20 years. I do think I know a little bit about it. His stuff is still good."
Why, then, has Lidge's season begun so differently than last year?
"That's baseball," Manuel said. "When you think you've got this game whipped, it can jump right up and bite you."