Madson typifies bullpen's dominance
With 'Nintendo changeup,' Phils reliever fans three of four hitters
PHILADELPHIA -- A quick glance at the final box score from Game 4 of the World Series screams blowout, but don't tell that to the Phillies' bullpen.
The game didn't get out of hand until late, when the Phillies scored four runs in the eighth inning to ensure a 10-2 victory to claim a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven World Series. Leading up to the Jayson Werth-Ryan Howard home run display in the eighth inning, however, were a couple of innings turned over to the unflappable Phils 'pen, and proving that old habits die hard, this group seemingly gets better with each postseason game.
"Guys are just going out there and executing, that's what's going on right now," said closer Brad Lidge, whose services weren't needed after the Phillies' breakout eighth. "They've got confidence. They've got the stuff. And they're executing pitches."
The situation could not have played out in more textbook fashion than it did in the seventh and eighth innings. Joe Blanton, who pitched the game of his life and added a home run for good measure, ended his night with a walk to Ben Zobrist to lead off the seventh, and before the inning was over, manager Charlie Manuel called for three relievers, most of whom zipped in and out without a scratch.
Chad Durbin coaxed a fly ball from Jason Bartlett but gave up a single to Willy Aybar, bringing Scott Eyre in to face Akinori Iwamura, who flew out to left field. That's when Manuel reached for his no-longer-secret weapon, Ryan Madson, who faced four Rays batters -- all of whom had no chance against the lanky right-hander and his changeup.
Eyre described it as a "Nintendo changeup," where it comes out looking like a heater but seemingly goes into slow motion, confusing the hitter just before he swings, and on most occasions, misses.
"It's one of those pitches that's almost unhittable, especially since he's throwing [his fastball] at 94, 95 miles an hour," Eyre said. "He's got good control, so it's not like he's effectively wild or anything. He's got good control."
Three of four Rays hitters saw that firsthand. In the seventh inning, B.J. Upton received an array of fastballs ranging from 88 to 95 mph but then flailed at an 81-mph changeup, ending the inning.
The eighth inning brought much of the same. Madson threw three pitches to Evan Longoria, beginning with two 94-mph fastballs before slowing down to the 84-mph changeup.
"I told him that may be the best changeup Longoria's ever going to see in his career," Eyre said.
Madson's bullpen mates would agree.
"That's his strikeout pitch," Lidge said. "Coming out of the bullpen, you've got to have a good fastball. Some people use that as their out pitch, some people have a good curveball, slider. His is his changeup. It has such a speed differential from his fastball, that even if a hitter's looking for it, it's very hard to hit square."
The key to Madson's effectiveness may simply be his confidence in the pitch, one that he credits with getting him to the big leagues.
"I learned it when I was 12 years old, and I've pretty much thrown it [in a] 3-2 [count] a million times," he said. "[Throwing it to Upton in the seventh] was the biggest time I've had to throw a 3-2 and it worked. Just from repetition and trusting it."
If the Phillies win the World Series, a giant heaping of credit should to go the bullpen, which lowered its postseason ERA to a staggering 0.95 ERA over 28 1/3 innings. During that stretch, relievers have allowed just three earned runs.
Typically, bullpens only garner attention when they're costing the team wins, but in the Phils' case, its positive contributions haven't been overlooked.
"That's what we take pride in," Madson said. "Just hold it, just stop it, and let the hitters take care of the rest."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.