Philadelphia Brad Lidge was right in the middle of three celebrations this month, getting the last out when the Philadelphia Phillies clinched the division, advanced in the playoffs and won the pennant.
For a guy who temporarily lost his closer’s job with a week left in the regular season, that’s an impressive turnaround.
Lidge’s resurgence came at a perfect time for the Phillies. The defending champions needed someone to step up in the bullpen during the postseason, and Lidge has done just that. He’s 1-0 with three saves in three tries and hasn’t allowed a run in five appearances. The hard-throwing right-hander has given up just one hit in four innings.
That’s more like the guy who capped a perfect season last year by striking out Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinske for the final out of the World Series, setting off a wild celebration in Philadelphia.
Lidge was 48-for-48 in save opportunities last season, including seven in the playoffs. Without him, the Phillies probably wouldn’t have won the division, let alone the World Series.
But this year was a nightmare for Lidge. He led the majors with 11 blown saves and went 0-8 with a 7.21 earned-run average. None of that matters now. Lidge is lights-out again, and the Phillies are heading back to the World Series. They’ll play the New York Yankees, starting Wednesday.
“For me, obviously the regular season was not great, but the postseason starts a different type of season,” Lidge said. “I feel very fortunate to be healthy, and I thank God I have the opportunity to get out there and be on this team.”
Manager Charlie Manuel didn’t commit to using Lidge exclusively as the closer when the playoffs started three weeks ago. But when he needed someone to preserve a 6-5 lead in Game 3 of the NL division series against Colorado, Manuel called on Lidge to pitch the ninth.
Lidge retired Rockies cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki with the tying run at second to secure that win. Less than 24 hours later, he struck out Tulowitzki with two runners on to finish out a 5-4 victory that sent the Phillies to the NL championship series.
Lidge pitched out of a jam to earn another save in an 8-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS.
“I think right now he’s definitely more at ease, and he’s more relaxed. He’s having fun again,” Manuel said.