Phillies

Phillies

Re-airing the Phillies' 2008 postseason run, as we have been here at NBC Sports Philadelphia over the past week, has provided us with a reminder of just how talented a group of players the team had in that era of good feelings.

Rollins, Utley, Howard, Hamels, Lidge, Chooch, Victorino, Werth, Burrell ...

Those were some good ones ...

But there were many others who helped the Phillies win it all in 2008.

Complementary players. Role players. Supporting cast. Call 'em what you want. The Phils don't win without them.

Remember how good that bullpen was?

Of course, you do. Brad Lidge to this day is a reminder of how important the bullpen was for the 2008 Phillies, a team that did not give up a ninth-inning lead all season, thanks mostly to Lidge's fantastic 41-for-41 performance in save opportunities. He converted seven more in the postseason to finish 48 for 48.

But there was more to that bullpen that just Lidge. Lefty Scott Eyre was an important pickup. J.C. Romero, another lefty, and Chad Durbin were valuable setup men, and Clay Condrey an unheralded middle man.

And then there was Ryan Madson.

What a major difference maker he was for the Phillies down the stretch in 2008 and in the postseason.

As you'll be able to relive Tuesday night, the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-5, in Game 2 of the 2008 National League Championship Series to take a two-games-to-none lead in the series.

Shane Victorino and Brett Myers, offensive stars in Game 2 of the NLDS, did it again in Game 2 of the NLCS as they combined for seven RBIs. Myers' bat (three hits, three RBIs) gave him some much-needed cushion on the mound because he couldn't completely hold back the Dodgers' offense. He gave up five runs and was gone after five innings.

 

The bullpen did the rest.

Durbin, Romero, Madson and Lidge combined on four scoreless innings and struck out six to nail down the win.

Lidge presided over a nervous ninth inning and walked two as the Dodgers brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out.

Matt Kemp had the first chance to dent the Phillies' perfect closer. Lidge struck him out on a 1-2 slider.

That brought up former two-time American League batting champ Nomar Garciaparra.

Lidge went back to his signature pitch — the slider — and struck out Garciaparra on three of them, each a little harder and nastier than the previous one. The final two sliders corkscrewed into the dirt and catcher Carlos Ruiz blocked both as the crowd of 45,839 exhaled and headed out of Citizens Bank Park happy.

"No way (Garciaparra) was getting a fastball," Ruiz said after the game. "You have to go with your best pitch."

The Phillies' bullpen allowed just eight earned runs over 40⅓ innings (1.79 ERA) in the 2008 postseason.

The unit was brilliant against the Dodgers in the NLCS, picking up 18⅔ innings while allowing just two earned runs (0.98). Madson pitched five scoreless innings in that series and struck out four.

Ten years earlier, Madson had been a ninth-round draft pick of the Phillies. The team bought the right-hander out of his commitment to the University of Southern California and it paid off a decade later. Madson had been groomed as a starter in the minors, but manager Larry Bowa and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan pushed to have him make the 2004 team as a reliever. The role fit his two-pitch power fastball/changeup mix.

Madson had been inconsistent in his early years in the majors. He put it all together in 2008 and recorded a 3.05 ERA in 76 games. His emergence began in spring training when pitching coach Rich Dubee gave him a stern talking-to about work ethic and commitment and how it could lead to financial reward.

"I told him, 'You're cheating yourself and your family,'" Dubee said back in October 2008. "He hadn't stepped up. He has a total-package arm, but he hadn't pitched to his capabilities. I felt he should know."

During that season, Madson, on a recommendation from teammate Tom Gordon, visited a physical therapist from Phoenix named Keith Kochner. Kochner prescribed a shoulder strengthening routine that Madson, under the supervision of Phillies athletic trainers, followed religiously. Late in the season, Madson saw results. While some pitchers were wearing down, his velocity was ticking up into the high-90s. That made his knee-buckling changeup that much better. His confidence swelled. He started attacking hitters, daring them to hit his stuff.

 

It's sometimes forgotten that the Phillies had to win 13 of their final 16 games to overtake the New York Mets for the 2008 NL East title.

Down the stretch that season, Madson allowed just one run in his final 14 games and carried that success right over into the postseason.

"Ryan's confidence is like a closer's right now," Lidge said during that NLCS against the Dodgers. "He's learned how to dominate guys."

And what a difference that made for the Phillies in October 2008.

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