LOS ANGELES - On the long list of worries that can keep Charlie Manuel from a restful night's sleep, the absence of a second lefthanded reliever ranks just above the absence of a can of Diet Coke in his office minifridge. That said, if you are looking for ways the Phillies can further tighten their current death grip on the top of the National League standings, the bullpen is the place to start.
Take yesterday, for example. The Phillies entered the seventh inning with a 9-7 lead, having overcome the 6-0 cushion the Dodgers built against rookie righthander Vance Worley. Manuel called on Brad Lidge to start the inning, and the veteran righthander responded by striking out star lefty Andre Ethier. But then Matt Kemp singled to centerfield and Lidge walked Juan Rivera, putting the tying run on first base with one out and lefty James Loney at the plate.
Antonio Bastardo eliminated the damage, getting Loney to fly out and Dioner Navarro to strike out to end the inning, then remained in the game to pitch a scoreless eighth and set up Ryan Madson for his 22nd save (albeit one in which he allowed a run and recorded the final out with the tying run on first).
Still, the Phillies could use a second lefthanded reliever for situations like the one they faced in the seventh, particularly since Bastardo has established himself as a setup man instead of a situational lefty-on-lefty arm. After all, the 25-year-old isn't going to be able to record five outs every appearance.
"I think we've got some righties down there that can get lefties out," Manuel said. "We've made do without that before. But a good situational guy, we can always use one of those."
The Phillies parted with journeyman Juan Perez to make room for Roy Oswalt on the active roster over the weekend. They are likely scouring the waiver wire for potential upgrades, but they have professed an inability to add much in the way of payroll. In 2008, the Phillies added Scott Eyre in August, and the veteran lefty ended up pitching very well down the stretch and in the postseason while complementing J.C. Romero. Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee are wary of overworking their bullpen, particularly Bastardo and fellow young reliever Michael Stutes, who has allowed runs in five of his last 10 outings.
In the first game of the Phillies' three-game sweep of the Dodgers, they faced a situation where Bastardo retired the last hitter of an inning while throwing just five pitches, but elected to take him out of the game in order to help limit his workload.
It's an area that could use some fortification. But it probably should not keep Manuel up at night.
George Lopez threw out the first pitch, only to find out later his late-night talk show was canceled . . . The Phillies are 22-11 (.667) in one-run games . . . It was the first sweep of the Dodgers since Aug. 22-25, 2008, at Philadelphia, and their first sweep in LA since June 9-11, 1995 . . . The Phillies are 16-7 in their last 23 games against the Dodgers . . . After playing on 20 consecutive days (16-4), the Phillies are off today before opening a three-game series against the Nationals tomorrow. The matchups:
Friday vs. Nationals: LHP Cole Hamels (13-6, 2.53) vs. RHP Livan Hernandez (6-11, 4.41);
Saturday vs. Nationals: RHP Roy Oswalt (4-7, 3.84) vs. LHP John Lannan (8-7, 3.56);