Sam Donnellon: End of Phillies win just like walking on a Lidge

DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer
Posted: July 26, 2010

FIFTEEN BALLS. Fifteen strikes. Two walks, three strikeouts, a ninth-inning, bases-loaded jam of his own making.

Brad Lidge should be part of a theme park. Put him in your favorite team's uniform, give him a lead in the ninth, then make sure you are locked into your seat real good.

A three-run lead for the faint of heart.

Two for the more sturdy.

One for the bungee-jumping, parasailing, thrillseekers out there.

Fifteen balls. Fifteen strikes. Load the bases with two outs, run the count to 2-0 and, and, and . . .

"You're giving me a heart attack," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Lidge following yesterday's 4-3, rain-delayed victory over the Colorado Rockies.

"What do you think I'm doing to myself?" the closer responded.

"It seems like my whole career people have been telling me I'm going to give them a heart attack," Lidge said. "But for me right now, I'm feeling very confident that, no matter what is going on around me, it's going to end up good. That's the kind of feeling you get when

you're feeling good about what you're doing. Even when you don't have your best stuff, your best command, you feel confident you can do it. That's the key to success for me."

Lidge battled back against Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart, got a couple of strikes to even the count at 2-2. Then he froze him with one of those sliders of his for a game-ending strikeout, and you could practically hear the exhale from the fans who waited out the 1-hour, 39-minute rain delay, and the exhale from the players on the field as well.

It was wrenching and drenching all the way around, emotionally and meteorologically. In the three innings before the skies darkened and emptied, the Phillies stranded six baserunners, four in scoring position. Six innings of baseball had looked too much like their last 2 months, runners pulling off helmets in disgust as the inning closed fruitlessly.

Down 3-2, they sat out the delay in their clubhouse, watching the Florida Marlins carve them another opening, beating the first-place Braves on Wes Helms' 11th-inning single. And then minutes after scrambling enthusiastically back to their positions to the applause of the smattering crowd that remained, Ryan Madson drilled a 1-2 fastball into Melvin Mora's back to load the bases, and that old, sickening feeling started to return.

But the Rockies are immersed in their own funk of late, and Madson pitched his way clear. Wilson Valdez, of all people, then hit a pinch-hit double to lead off the home seventh, one of three pinch-hit doubles by the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins punched a single to left-center to send Valdez home, then took second when Carlos Gonzalez booted it across the outfield. Rollins then stole third and, after Ryan Howard walked, scored the winning run when an 0-2 pitch to Jayson Werth scooted away from Rockies catcher Miguel Olivio.

The Phillies extended their modest winning streak to four games, pulled within five games of the Braves. A little lucky? Sure. But as their closer said, "We're doing a lot of little things right right now. Moving guys over. Stealing bases. Going first to third . . .

"We're starting to feel it right now. But we have to keep pushing."

He channels this team, Brad Lidge does. Perhaps even more than Chase Utley, he is its pulse. It's not always pretty and it's occasionally maddening, but the Phillies don't win that championship in 2008 without his perfect season, and they might have won it again if he could have been anywhere near that guy for any stretch last year, and particularly in Game 4 against the Yankees.

He's not always pretty and neither are they. He can scare you with how bad it looks and so can they. But when he's on, and when they're on, the exhilaration is not unlike the apex of your favorite ride, full of wows and whoas and high-fives. The season started that way. The blowout games on Friday and Saturday at least suggested it could still look that way over the final 2 months of the season.

Yesterday? Yesterday reminded you that it won't be all wows and whoas and high-fives. There will be dark tunnels and fright and some accelerated heart beats to deal with, too.

If we're lucky.

"Little quiet in here," Manuel said when he walked into the interview room after the game.

Then he broke into one of those tilted-head smiles of his.

"Got a little quiet there in the dugout, too."

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