Brad Lidge had not blown a save since September of 2007. He went I believe 47 straight regular season games and seven post season games without one. Some were impressive one-two-three innings. Others were nail biters that left you covering your eyes hoping that something bad wouldn't happen. And since this streak is so impressive, it's tough to remember every single save. However, there are some that definitely come to mind.
1. His save at Houston last year 5/22—It was the first time he pitched against his old team and the Astros fans gave him a less than friendly greeting when he came in for the save. Lidge was a little antsy in this appearence and thus had trouble finding the strike zone. Yet, he only let up one hit and when he got the final out, Wheels said: "Man is he pumped! Haha!"
2. A save at Atlanta last year 6/6—The game went to extra innings and the Phils took a two run lead in the tenth. In the bottom half of the inning, the Braves threatened and actually cut the lead to one. But, when the tieing run attempted to score for the Braves, Shane Victorino rocketed a bullet to the plate and Chris Coste made the tag. Lidge's save was in tact and he was once again PUMPED. He also gave Victorino his thanks. Take note, this is when Lidge was still relatively new to the team. So it's not like a blown save would have been anything reallly to get depressed over. Not like it was the other night when he actually blew one.
3. A save at St. Louis on a Sunday night game last year 8/3—This was one of Lidge's "load the bases in the ninth and scare the shit out of everyone saves." Well, he had a two run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, let up a run, loaded the bases as mentioned, but struck out two with them loaded to get the save. I was hiding behind my couch for this one. There was one other game I did that for and you'll read about that one shortly.
4. Another save at Atlanta last year 9/16—Alright, this is when the division is really on the line. The Phils need wins badly because it's crunch time in September. Well, in this game at Atlanta the Phils are up 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth and Lidge walks the bases loaded. I don't know exactly how the outs went because I don't really remember. But, he somehow got the save and did it well enough so our pants stayed dry and we didn't piss ourselves. It also helped that the Phillies took the lead for first place after winning this game.
5. A save at home versus Washington last year 9/27—This was the crescendo of saves for the regular season. The Phils had a 4-2 lead going into the top of the ninth and a win would clinch them the division. Lidge came in 40 out of 40 so far in save opportunities. If I recall, he got the first out easily. But then, he started to slip a little bit. I guess it was a mixture of adrenaline and nerves. He let up one run to make it 4-3, then loaded the bases with just that one out. This is where I was hiding behind my couch again. Well, with the bases loaded, one out and a 1-1 pitch to Ryan Zimmerman, a ground was hit up the middle, Jimmy Rollins made a great defensive stop, flipped it to Chase Utley for out number two and then Utley rocketed it to Ryan Howard for the third out. I remember distinctly seeing the play develop and thinking "Oh my God."
Now, as it happened (and take note everything happened so fast, like in a couple of seconds) and after it happened I started to run over to my recently late father who I was watching the game with. I was thinking to myself, "I'm going to jump on his back." I knew I would probably be in for it because my dad didn't really like me being physical with him because he thought he would get hurt and it would prevent him from working. But I thought, "The hell with it. I'm going to jump on his back." So after it happened I ran over to him screaming and jumped on his back. Well...he wasn't too happy...haha. He gave me one of his growling looks and then asked what I was doing. I said, "DAD THE PHILS WON THE DIVISION. THE PHILS WON THE DIVISION!" very happily. Well, he turned around, smiled and then said "Oh...I thought that was only the second out." HAHAHAHA. Ah... great father/son moment. I knew I would be in for it, but not for that. Haha. It's a great story though.
6. Save at home verus Milwaukee last year 10/1—So Cole Hamels was cruising in Game 1 of the NLDS with a 3-0 lead after eight innings. Well in the ninth Charlie Manuel brings in Lidge to close it out. Lidge's last playoff appearence was the debacle he had in 2005 with the Astros. Nobody knew where his head would be, especially after his scary late September. True to everybodys' fears, Lidge was shakey, let up a run and let runners on base with a chance to tie the game or go ahead. But, staying true to his season form, he found a way to get out of it and struck out the third out for the save.
7. Save at home versus Tampa Bay last year 10/29—This was the save of all saves. If you look at it from just a baseball standpoint, it doesn't add up to the "scariness" of some of the other ones. But, this was the save fans were waiting for. It was the save 28 years and 25 years in the making. Relevant to Philadelphia's nature, Lidge got the first batter out, but then let up a single to Dioner Navarro. Then, Fernando Perez came in to pinch run and stole second. So, with the score at 4-3 Phillies, the tieing run was on second with one out. Fortunately, Lidge got the next batter Ben Zobrist to line out to Jayson Werth in right. It was scary line out because it looked like it was going to be a base hit, which would have scored Perez. Can you imagine if Lidge's first blown save in his streak would have been the one he was trying to get to win the World Series? That would have sucked. Anyway, with two outs up stepped pinch hitter Eric Hinske. The first pitch Lidge threw was fouled down the first base line. The second pitch he threw Hinske tried to check swing but was called for a swinging strike. It was close and there was a possiblity he didn't go. But who cares because we got it our way and that's all that matters. Then, the third pitch to Hinske was one of Lidge's nasty sliders. Hinske struck out swining and the Phillies were World Champs. It was the ultimate save for a great season—"The Perfect Season."
Yet, that was last year and this is this year. It's great to remember, but we can't live in the past. It's time to get another one and for that to happen (Knock On Wood) Lidge needs to be in the same form he was last year—an almost unbeatable closer. Will he blow another save? Maybe, even possibly. But let's hope it doesn't deter the Phillies from doing what they have to do. Although the streak is over, Lidge is still the man in my eye.