Series save is perfect ending for Lidge
Phils closer puts finishing touch on unblemished season
PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Lidge rubbed up the baseball for what he hoped would be its final assignment when he noticed pitching coach Rich Dubee jogging for a visit.Now? One out away from a World Series championship and pinch-runner Fernando Perez, aka the tying run, on second base, what could Dubee possibly want with his perfect closer? Dubee wanted to get a few things straight with Eric Hinske waiting to bat.
"He asked, 'Have you faced this guy before?'" Lidge said. "I said, 'Yeah, he waffled a fastball off me.'"That fastball, thrown on June 11, 2005, was rifled to right field in a save situation that turned into a loss for Lidge. Problem solved. "OK, well throw him a slider," Dubee said. "And I prefer you start with a slider away. If you're going to throw it in, it better be bounced at the back foot. If you're going to go fastball, it's going to be in and elevated." Three pitches later, with each one more down and more away than the next, Hinske swung for the third straight time, and missed to seal Philadelphia's 4-3 win. Lidge fell to his knees shouting, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" before being mobbed by teammates. "Thinking about it gives me goosebumps," Lidge said. "I feel like it just happened a second ago." Here's the funny part, none of the fielders gathered for the mound conference heard the conversation between pitcher and coach, and Lidge described his demeanor as lighthearted. It takes a unique individual to recall a player "waffling" him three years earlier in such a pressure situation. "They're just nodding their heads," Lidge said, of his teammates. "There's not a whole lot that needs to be said in that situation. It's do or die. You either throw your best slider or you don't." "That was probably his lightest moment all year," Dubee said. "I wasn't laughing, but I'm glad he was enjoying himself." Everyone enjoyed the result, and the 47 others that came before it, as Lidge wrapped up his 48-for-48 season with a lockdown in a one-run game. He's had quite a season since coming over from Houston in a November 2007 deal with Houston and parlayed his success into an All-Star appearance and a $37.5 million contract extension. He earned his last dollar on Wednesday. Warming up in the bullpen on the 44-degree night, Lidge said the adrenaline allowed him to feel like it was 75 degrees. He heard, "Soldiers," his hand-picked song from the heavy-metal band Drowning Pool as he walked through the door and jogged to the mound. But when he stepped on the mound, "I'm playing catch with my catcher at that point," he said. "It's very difficult to keep yourself locked in the moment," he said. "The experiences in my career, each one has led me to be able to do this right now. If I don't do what's happened to this point, I don't know if this happens." One of those life-changing experiences -- a game-winning homer by Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series -- eventually brought him to Philadelphia, as he was in need of a change of scenery. From left field, Eric Bruntlett, one player who saw that Pujols homer live in 2005, smiled. He thought the 2008 season has the ideal ending. "It was so fitting," Bruntlett said. "Before the game we were talking and he said, 'Is there any question this is going to be a one-run [game] in the ninth. It wouldn't be right if it wasn't. It was the perfect ending to a perfect season."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.