NEW YORK -- Now clinging to their season by Pedro Martinez and a very creaky bullpen, one of the most pressing questions surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies heading into tonight's World Series Game 6 is this:
If the Phillies carry a slim lead into the ninth inning, does manager Charlie Manuel trust Brad Lidge to close it out?
"I don't want to sound like smart or nothing, [but I'm] probably going to use him the way I want to [depending on] when we get there and how I feel," Manuel said late Tuesday. "I'll do a lot of talking in the dugout with [pitching coach Rich] Dubee, and we'll decide on which one we want to put out there."
Lidge is either the Phillies closer or former closer, depending on how you read the tea leaves.
His struggles this season already well documented (he blew a major-league leading 11 save opportunities), the Good Lidge was 1-0 with three saves and no runs allowed in five postseason appearances before the Bad Lidge re-emerged in Game 4 of the World Series.
Looking to protect a 4-4 game in the ninth and give the Phillies a chance to win it Sunday, the Yankees scorched Lidge for three runs and tagged him with the loss.
Tellingly, Manuel summoned Ryan Madson to close Philadelphia's 8-6 Game 5 victory on Monday night, leaving Lidge in the pen.
Afterward, Manuel noted Lidge's high pitch count from the night before -- 30 -- as one reason he didn't use him.
On Tuesday's off day in New York -- the Phillies elected not to work out -- Manuel repeated that his still has confidence in Lidge.
"I sure do," Manuel said. "I think the only thing I'm trying to do with Brad Lidge is get him right. You know what, I'll always have confidence in him. He's got a lot of talent, and he proved that last year when he goes 48 for 48 in save situations. I've seen him work out of some tough jams. I've seen him go bases loaded, nobody out and get right out of it. ...
"I said last night, he is our closer, and basically what we're trying to do is get him as good as he was, or somewhere in between."
If the Phillies lead by a run or two or three heading into the ninth tonight, we'll find out whether Lidge is still the closer. He's had two days to rest after throwing those 30 pitches in a tough Game 4 loss.
He will be fresh.