Phillies' closer struggles continue in loss

BY foxsports • September 27, 2009

With the playoffs a little more than a week away, the Philadelphia Phillies are holding open auditions to replace struggling closer Brad Lidge.

Tyler Walker's tryout didn't go so well Saturday.

Handed the ball with the game tied at 5 in the ninth, Walker gave up a single to Craig Counsell - then served up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun to give the Milwaukee Brewers a 7-5 victory.

"He's a tremendous hitter," Walker said. "You make a mistake like that, he's going to make you pay for it."

With the loss, the Phillies' magic number of wins or Atlanta Braves losses needed to clinch the NL East remained stuck at four. The Braves didn't cooperate earlier in the day, beating Washington 11-5.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Braun was mobbed at home plate by teammates to celebrate a rousing win in an otherwise disappointing season.

The Brewers aren't going to the playoffs this year, but they did draw attention; Saturday's crowd of 40,141 put them over 3 million in attendance for the second straight season.

"It shows a lot about where our team is at," Braun said. "We continue to fight back and win a game like this against the defending World Champions."

The Phillies still have plenty to play for but desperately need to find a reliable stopper for the back end of their bullpen. Lidge was perfect in 48 save tries in the regular season and playoffs last year, but has blown 11 saves this season.

Walker (2-1) appeared to be a good closer candidate, given his solid 2009 season and previous experience; he earned 23 saves for San Francisco in 2005. But he didn't get it done Saturday.

Manuel seemed more concerned afterward that his top three hitters - Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley - went a combined 0-for-14.

"That tells the story right there," Manuel said.

It was the 30th home run of the season for Braun, who has been stuck on 29 since a Sept. 11 game at Arizona.

"It felt like every time I looked at the scoreboard I saw a huge '29' staring back at me," Braun said.

Trevor Hoffman (2-2) pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the win for Milwaukee. Ryan Howard hit his 43rd home run for the Phillies.

"This wasn't a pretty game, but quite a finish," Brewers manager Ken Macha said.

In a sloppy performance highlighted by a pair of errors for each team, it got particularly messy in the sixth as the Brewers rallied for two runs to tie the game at 5.

After a two-out walk to pinch hitter Jason Bourgeois and bloop ground-rule double by Felipe Lopez, Counsell hit a flare that caused confusion in the middle of the Phillies' outfield and eventually bounced off of Rollins. The play originally was ruled an error but was later changed to a two-RBI hit.

The play erased a 5-3 lead the Phillies took on Howard's homer.

It was Howard's fifth home run in nine career at-bats against Brewers starter Braden Looper, who came into Saturday night's game having allowed the most home runs in the major leagues - then gave up two more to run his season total to 39.

Even light-hitting catcher Paul Bako got in on the action with a two-run shot in the second inning.

"I went out there and tried to control a really good lineup," Looper said. "If I don't give up that homer to Bako I feel pretty good about tonight. For the most part I felt I made pretty good pitches."

Kyle Kendrick started in place of Pedro Martinez, who was scratched because of continued soreness in his neck after hurting himself during an at-bat a week ago.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said before Saturday's game that was not clear when Martinez would return. His next scheduled appearance is against Houston on Thursday.

Kendrick went four innings, giving up six hits and three runs.

NOTES: Macha said before Saturday's game that he expects to return next season, calling his discussions with general manager Doug Melvin "positive." Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said the decision on Macha's future is up to Melvin. ... Fielder had a sacrifice fly in the third, increasing his Major League-leading RBI total to 137. ... Raul Ibanez robbed Hardy with an over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track in the second inning.