10/14/08 2:15 AM ET
Lidge relishes rare four-out save
Phillies closer wriggles out of jam in eighth, cruises in ninth
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
Brad Lidge, recently nothing more than a one-inning specialist, entered the game needing four outs to seal a win over the Dodgers. It was an unprecedented move in his time with the Phillies -- and it worked. After winning a lengthy battle to record the final out of the eighth inning, Lidge breezed through the ninth, preserving a critical National League Championship Series victory for the Phillies.
"I knew that this would hopefully be a night where I would have an opportunity to do it," Lidge said of pitching more than one inning. "Our bullpen's been so good this year that I haven't had to do that. To get an opportunity tonight, I actually really enjoyed it."
Consider the rarity of what Lidge did. Monday's game marked the three-year anniversary of the last time Lidge had recorded a save longer than three outs in the postseason, back in Game 2 of the 2005 NLCS. And it came more than two years after his last multiple-innings save in any sort of game, on July 6, 2006.
After using setup man Ryan Madson for 1 2/3 innings, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel needed someone -- preferably someone right-handed -- to face Manny Ramirez with two outs in the eighth inning. And so he turned to Lidge, who had struck out Ramirez in their only previous career meeting.
This time, however, Ramirez proved to be a more formidable foe, lacing a Lidge fastball into right-center field to bring the tying run to the plate. Pressure built when Lidge struck out the next batter, Russell Martin, only to watch him sprint safely to first base on a wild pitch. Then moments later Lidge ended the threat, inducing James Loney's inning-ending flyout.
It was a harrowing out. And Lidge still needed three more of them.
"I was just taking deep breaths and really trying to lock in my focus," Lidge said. "I've done it before but I hadn't done it this year, so I really needed to make sure my energy stayed up. I just pretended like I had just warmed up again on the mound, and I was ready to go close it out in the ninth."
So he did precisely that, retiring consecutive Dodgers to seal the victory.
"For me, he was the guy that was supposed to be out there," Manuel said. "That's how I felt."
But for Manuel, it was no simple decision. Lidge had gone more than an entire calendar year without recording four outs in a game. Not since September, in his waning days with the Astros, had he done so, in a nod to past years when he would routinely pitch more than one inning. Yet his body had become accustomed to the lighter workload, and so Manuel had shied away from the strategy.
Often, Lidge spoke of his willingness -- if not his complete desire -- to pitch multiple innings in a save situation. But not until Monday did he have his first opportunity, which he turned into his fifth straight postseason save. Dating back to last season, Lidge has now converted 49 consecutive saves.
"I was actually real happy to be able to get in there in that situation," Lidge said. "I've been wanting to do it. I've been preparing myself to do this all year."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.