WASHINGTON - Rich Dubee sees the similarities. In 2008, the Phillies rolled to their first World Series title in 28 years thanks in large part to the dominant pitching of setup man Ryan Madson and closer Brad Lidge, who combined to allow four earned runs in 22 innings during the postseason run.
When you look back at the rotation the Philllies fielded that season - in order, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer - and compare it with the one they feature now, you gain a new respect for the role the bullpen played.
But as the Phillies learned last October, when two of their four losses to the Giants came on go-ahead runs in the eighth inning or later, even a good start needs a solid end.
So when Dubee looks at the current performances of Madson, now a closer, and young setup man Antonio Bastardo, he sees a lot to like . . . and a lot to remind him of 2008.
"Very similar," the Phillies' pitching coach said. "You look at good teams, they've got solid eighth- and ninth-inning guys, setup men and closers. It's tough to lose games at the end of the day when you've got leads, and we've been very good about that."
According to the numbers - at least before Madson's blown save last night - they have been just as good, and perhaps even better, than Madson and Lidge were in 2008. That season, the Phillies went 86-10 when they entered the ninth inning with a lead or a tie. This year, they are 76-9 in those situations. An exact comparison between the setup/closer combinations is difficult, since Madson spent much of 2008 rotating with lefty J.C. Romero in the setup role. In fact, it was Romero who recorded the four outs before Lidge's clinching save in Game 5 of the World Series.
This year, Bastardo has been the lone constant in the Phillies' bullpen, filling a setup role ever since Jose Contreras landed on the disabled list in late April. Heading into yesterday, the 25-year-old ranked fifth among NL relievers with a 1.35 ERA in 46 2/3 innings. He also had allowed an average of only 3.47 hits per nine innings. Since baseball was integrated, no reliever with at least 40 innings has finished a season allowing fewer than 4.04 (Eric Gagne in 2003).
Madson, who opened the season setting up for Contreras, missed a month with a hand injury, but has recorded 23 of 25 save opportunities.
CW2>Combined, Madson and Bastardo posted 31 saves, 17 holds, eight wins and two losses in 92 innings. After 122 games in 2008, Madson and Lidge had combined for a 2.87 ERA, 30 saves, 10 holds, four wins and one loss in 113 innings.
Of course, Madson and Lidge both have rings. Bastardo, who was on the postseason roster in 2009 and 2010, will have a big hand in getting himself one.
One night after fielding a lineup that looked as if it were ripped from the Grapefruit League, the Phillies welcomed back Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard.
Ruiz missed two games after a Roy Halladay pitch in the dirt unfortunately struck him in a part of the male anatomy, while Howard was given a precautionary day off after he developed soreness in his right hand during a 9-2 win overArizona on Friday.
Lefthander Cole Hamels (shoulder) and righthander Jose Contreras (elbow) are both scheduled to throw bullpen sessions today. Hamels' will be a light session, after which the Phillies will assess where he will fit back into their rotation after skipping him a start to rest inflammation in his shoulder. Contreras' bullpen session will be his first since early July. Righthander Joe Blanton (elbow) is still throwing off flat ground.
"It's a process," Dubee said of Blanton and Contreras, who have both suffered setbacks in their recoveries. "We have to see how they respond."