The three-game set with the Nationals started with Charlie Manuel insisting that Brad Lidge was his closer and ended with it clear that Lidge was not. Lidge was pulled from a save opportunity in game one, on the bench for another in game two and pitching in the eighth inning with the Phillies down by six runs in the third.

While it sure seems likely that the Phillies closer situation is going to continue to bounce around in the near future, the series did show that Manuel wasn’t going to let blind loyalty to Lidge ruin the year for the Phils. While most probably saw that one coming, it is a sigh of relief for fans who have watched Lidge struggle through an awful season coming off of a brilliant 2008.

The Phillies are 79-59 on the season after taking two of three from the Washington Nationals. They’re in first place in the NL East, but the Florida Marlins have cut the Phillies lead in the division to five games by going 7-3 over their last ten.

The Phillies hit five solo home runs in game one of the series and won 5-3. Pedro got the start and gave up two runs in the first four innings, but Ibanez got the Phils on the board at 2-1 with a homer in the fifth. Ibanez, Werth and Ruiz all homered in the seventh and the Phils led 4-2. A home run by Willie Harris off of Martinez made it 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, but Utley hit one in the eight to put the Phils up 5-3. Lidge came on in the ninth to protect the two-run lead. He got one out, but Washington loaded the bases on a single, a hit batter and a wild pitch and Manuel called on Madson to replace Lidge. Madson struck out Ryan Zimmerman for the second out and got Adam Dunn on a grounder to Rollins to end the game.

The Phils won game two 6-5. Washington went up 1-0 with a run off of Lee in the first, but the Phils put together four hits and a walk in the top of the second to take a 3-1 lead. A two-out double by Ibanez in the fifth knocked in Howard to extend the lead to 4-1, but the Nationals came back with two more against Lee in the bottom of the inning and then tied it at 4-4 with another run in the seventh. Werth and Feliz both hit solo homers in the eighth and the Phils led 6-4. Another error by Howard helped Washington score an unearned run in the eighth, but Madson came on to nail down the save in the ninth.

Last night the Phillies saw their ninth-inning rally fall just short and fell 8-7. A triple from Utley in the first put the Phillies up 2-0 early, but the Nats tied the game up with a pair of runs off of Blanton in the third and pulled ahead 3-2 with another in the fourth. Blanton didn’t make it through the fifth. The Nats scored five times, getting home runs from Dunn and Ian Desmond, and Blanton left with two outs in the fifth and the Phils down 8-2. The score stayed that way till the top of the ninth, when Stairs delivered a one-out grand slam that got the Phillies within two at 8-6. Rollins followed with a single and Victorino doubled him home. 8-7. Utley was next and he singled as well, putting men on first and third with one out. Things looked real good, but Howard hit into a double-play to end the game and leave the Phils a run short.

The Phillies threw to a 5.19 ERA and a 1.42 ratio over 26 innings in the series. Most of the problems in the series can be blamed on the starters — despite all of the drama with the closer the relievers weren’t charged with a run in the series.

The starters were. Pedro made the best start of the series, allowing three runs over 6 2/3 in game one. Lee and Blanton combined to allow 13 runs in 11 2/3 innings in the next two games. As a group the starters posted a 7.36 ERA and a 1.58 ratio over 18 1/3 innings. They allowed 24 hits but walked just five.

Martinez started game one and improved to 4-0 as a Phillie, allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings on seven hits and a walk. He has a 3.64 ERA and a 1.11 ratio in six starts with the Phils.

Lee went seven innings in game two, allowing five runs on ten hits. Only four of the runs were earned and he didn’t walk a batter. The worse news is that that was the best of his last three starts. He’s allowed 29 hits in 15 innings over his last three times out.

Blanton got mauled in game three. He allowed eight runs on seven hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings. It was his shortest outing since May and the most runs he has allowed in any start all season. Just the second time in his last 19 starts that he has allowed more than three runs in a start.

The relievers weren’t charged with a run over 7 2/3 innings in the series and threw to a 1.04 ratio.

Park entered the eighth inning of game two with nobody out, men on second and third and the Phillies ahead 6-4. He walked Elijah Dukes to load the bases for the Nats before getting a fly ball for the first out with all the runners holding. Pinch-hitter Pete Orr was next and he delivered a sac fly that made it 6-5 with two down and men on first and second, but Park got Wil Nieves on a grounder to first to end the inning.

Durbin pitched the seventh inning of game three. He got the first out before allowing a double and a walk, but got the next two hitters.

The Phillies sure could use Durbin, who has struggled this season. He has been very good in his last three outings, though, throwing five scoreless frames with a 1.20 ratio.

Walker entered for Blanton in the fifth inning of last night’s game with two outs and the Phillies down 8-2. The first man he faced reached on an error and he got the next on a popup to end the inning. He came back and threw a 1-2-3 sixth.

Walker hasn’t been charged with a run in his last 11 appearances. In those appearances he’s allowed three hits and three walks over 13 1/3 innings while striking out 12.

Myers took over for Martinez in the seventh inning of game one with two outs, the bases empty and the Phillies up 4-3. He gave up a single to Cristian Guzman before striking out Zimmerman to end the inning. He came back to pitch the eighth and Dunn reached on an error by Howard to start the inning, but Myers got the next three.

He’s now made three appearances since returning from the DL and allowed one hit and two walks over 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

Madson entered the ninth inning of game one with one out, the bases loaded and the Phillies up 5-3. He struck out Zimmerman for the first out and got Dunn to ground to Rollins to turn the Nats away.

He started the ninth in a save situation in game two, entering with a 6-5 lead. Justin Maxwell led off with a single and stole second before Madson struck out Guzman for the first out of the inning. Dunn was next and smashed a line drive that Utley snared. Utley threw to Rollins at second in time to double Maxwell off and end the game.

Lidge started the ninth inning of game one with a two-run lead. He gave up a leadoff single to Wil Nieves before getting Alberto Gonzalez on a ground out for the first out. He hit Harris with a pitch, though, before walking Guzman to load the bases. Manuel gave him the hook, calling on Madson to nail down the save.

He threw the eighth inning last night, entering with the Phillies down 8-2. He allowed a one-out triple, but struck Orr out for the first out and Zimmerman out to end the inning.

The Phillies scored 18 runs in the three-game series.

Rollins made two throwing errors in last night’s game. He came into the game having made just three for the season. He was 3-for-14 in the series and is hitting 243/286/409 on the year. He’s on-basing .244 in September and has on-based under .300 in every month this season except for July.

Victorino was 5-for-14 with two doubles. 297/363/450. He’s on-basing .200 in September and is hitting .182 with no walks in his last 66 plate appearances.

Utley was 3-for-13 with a triple and a home run in the series. 293/411/536 on the year. He’s hitting 147/237/294 in September.

Howard made an error in each of the first two games. He also deserved an assist on a throwing error charged to Rollins in last night’s game. I’m thinking a day or two off might be in order. 1-for-11 in the series. 273/350/563 for the year. Just one strikeout in his last five games.

Werth was 4-for-12 with two home runs in the series. 270/373/528.

Ibanez went 5-for-13 with two doubles and two home runs. 278/346/567 for the season.

Feliz was 3-for-11 with a home run in the series. 268/315/383 on the year. 232/276/337 over his last 306 plate appearances.

Ruiz started games one and three. 2-for-5 with a home run and three walks in the set. 254/351/426 on the year. He’s hitting 385/467/577 in September after hitting 305/391/559 in August.

Bako started game two. 0-for-2 with a walk in the series. 203/280/324.

Bruntlett didn’t bat in the series.

Francisco didn’t bat in the series.

Cairo didn’t bat in the series.

Tracy got an at-bat in game two and struck out. 0-for-1 on the year.

Stairs hit a ninth-inning grand slam in last night’s game. 1-for-2 with a home run in the series. 198/360/385 for the season.

This article talks about the Phillies closer situation and mentions Lidge, Madson and Myers as possibilities. Walker should be considered and I think he will be.

The article linked above also suggests we shouldn’t expect to be seeing Eyre over the next several days.

This suggests that Condrey is almost ready to pitch again, either in a minor league or simulated game. It also suggests Dobbs may be able to return in seven or eight days and that there’s no timetable for Romero.