Last night the Philadelphia Phillies won their first game against the lowly Houston Astros after losing five in a row to this team. The final score was 7 - 4. J. A. Happ was not as sharp as usual in this one, and the Astros made him work very hard in the first six innings. He threw 119 pitches and gave up 3 earned runs before Charley Manuel brought in Jamie Moyer with 2 outs in the sixth. Moyer kept the Astros from scoring through the seventh inning, but injured himself on the final pitch of that inning and could not continue. Charley called upon Ryan Madson, who had an excellent moving fastball last night. Madson breezed through the eighth inning on eight pitches, but then I got nervous when I saw that Brad Lidge was warming up in the bullpen. No, no, I thought - surely Charley won't blow yet another win by bringing him into the game. Thank heaven he didn't. He stayed with Madson, and even though the Astros got two men on in the ninth, Madson fanned the last two hitters to save Happ's 12th victory of the season.
More importantly, this win, coupled with the Braves' loss to the Marlins, reduced the Phillies' "magic number" to ONE. That's right, if the Phillies can win at least ONE more game, they will clinch the NL East title no matter what the Braves do in their remaining games.
Although Ryan Madson has not been as effective a closer as Brad Lidge was LAST YEAR (tell me who was!), I think he's a safer bet than Lidge is this year. I hope Charley follows this line of thinking through the post-season. Also, in the post-season, I wouldn't hesitate to use some of the starting pitchers in relief roles. They will have several months to rest after the World Series.