NEW YORK - Questions? What questions?
Ryan Madson has answered all takers who questioned whether he can fill the Phillies' closer role in the absence of Brad Lidge.
On Wednesday, Madson did not allow a ball out of the infield in a 1-2-3 inning.
Last night was more of the same. Aside from a hiccup single to Omir Santos to lead off the 10th inning, Madson forced Jeremy Reed to pop out, almost coaxed pesky Luis Castillo into a gaming-ending doubleplay, and struck out Alex Cora Madson settled for a striking out Alex Cora to put the exclamation point on the Phillies' 6-3 win over the Mets in 10 innings.
Two saves in 2 days against the Nationals would have been a fine start to Madson's semi-temporary role. But to do it at Citi Field in a hotly contested matchup has the Phillies brimming with confidence as they head home from an impressive 7-3 road trip.
In the regular season, there isn't a much more hostile environment than New York.
But Madson's recent success doesn't surprise fellow reliever Chad Durbin.
"Let's think about where he pitched last year," Durbin said. "You're not going to get a much more intense environment than the eighth inning in the World Series. He is capable of doing whatever he has thrown at him. There is no real limit for that guy.
"Pitching at the Mets . . . [there is] nothing better than a couple saves in a couple days."
For Madson, pitching in the ninth - with the game on the line - has been the same as the eighth inning. While he mentally knows a difference, his arm has treated the last three outs with the same fervor.
"I'm just going out there with my same stuff," Madson said. "I'm going with my same aggression and just using my stuff. I'm trying to throw the ball well and keep the team's confidence high.
"The game had been tied, so I have had to get up a few different times, so I'm trying to get used to that. But other than that, it's been the same deal."
Manager Charlie Manuel has seen a big difference in Madson's arm since the Phillies began their stretch run at the end of last season. So Madson's recent success comes as no surprise to him either.
"I have always been confident that he could do it," Manuel said. "He has done his job. He has been really good since Sept. 1 last year.
"He has been a little more aggressive on his push-off. But now he has that rhythm and timing in his step. He has a lot of separation in between his fastball and changeup."
Madson - who now has four saves on the season - slid into the closer's role at the perfect time. Madson has not allowed a run in 14 consecutive appearances. In all, Madson has only allowed three runs in his last 24 1/3 innings - and they all came against the Nationals on May 16. He lowered his ERA to 2.08.
"I was glad that I was throwing the ball well when this all happened," Madson said. "I'm just trying to continue that and throw the ball well."
With Madson - or "Mad Dog" as he is called by his teammates - firmly gripping the ball in the ninth inning, there is no need to rush Lidge back before his troubled knee is good and ready.
"He has improved a great deal," Manuel said of Madson. "He definitely has the ability. Now he has the experience. Why can't he close?"
Any more questions? *