Lidge basks in October's pressure
LOS ANGELES -- As
What is usually used to pump up a home team's pitcher was tonight being used as a rallying cry for the home team's offense. In the end, it only served once again as the prelude to another impressive performance by a closer with serious playoff credentials. It is not Lidge's music -- he prefers
Nobody will confuse Lidge for Rivera, but the much-maligned Phillies closer has actually been doing a pretty decent Rivera impersonation over the past two Octobers. In his last 11 postseason outings stretching to Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS, he has not allowed a run while notching nine saves in nine chances and a 3:1 K/BB ratio. On Thursday, he converted his third consecutive save this postseason, securing the final three outs of Philadelphia's 8-6 win.
Lidge wasn't the only one to offer compelling evidence that the Phillies may actually have a pen to match L.A.'s in this series.
Given that the Phillies have a much more dangerous offense than the Dodgers -- they were outhit 14-8, but a pair of three-run home runs and a two-run double from
Given the erratic way his season is gone, he would seem due for a blown save. In fact, five other times this year, he has converted three consecutive save chances and then blown his next opportunity. But, as Lidge himself said afterward, this is a different time. "This is October. The regular season doesn't mean a whole lot when October rolls around."
It is also a different Lidge. Howard, perhaps weary from being asked repeatedly if Lidge had changed now that the calendar has flipped to October, said, "Yeah, he changed shaving cream."
With a scruffy playoff beard, it doesn't seem Lidge has been doing any shaving at all of late, other than trimming runs off his postseason ERA and shedding much of the doubt that has haunted him this year. Yet while others wondered aloud if he was up to succeeding in the cauldron of the postseason, Lidge, remarkably, managed to never doubt his own value. Part of that is due to his experience, and some is because he is, by his own admission, a different pitcher now than he was a few weeks ago. Nobody wanted October to get here as fast as he did, especially after he blew 11 saves and posted a 7.21 ERA during the regular season. At one point, he seemed sure to lose his role as closer. But as the season wound down, he suddenly found himself able to push off his back leg with more force, allowing for a harder slider and more powerful fastball. "I'm a little quicker now," he said. "I have a higher leg kick and I don't have to compromise because of my knee. I have more control of my pitches now than I did all year long."
He says his slider is more effective now, too, which has always been his most important pitch. "When I get too slider-happy I get in trouble," he says. "But now, even when it's up, it's still down, if that makes sense."
It makes about as much sense as any of the other crazy things that happened in Game 1. Dodgers reliver
So was their curious lack of offense in the late innings. The Dodgers put 11 men on base over the final four innings but scored only twice. They left the bases loaded in the sixth, failed to advance
This game was set up for the Dodgers to win. When starter
And if they get three more outings like that from their bullpen, they'll soon have a second straight National League pennant as well.