Lidge is getting the job done

Brad Lidge gave up a leadoff single, but then set the next three Mets down in the ninth Sunday for his 14th save in 18 tries. He has gotten out 13 of the last 15 batters he has faced.
Brad Lidge gave up a leadoff single, but then set the next three Mets down in the ninth Sunday for his 14th save in 18 tries. He has gotten out 13 of the last 15 batters he has faced.

Lately, the closer's confidence has risen along with his workload.

Posted: August 09, 2010

As Brad Lidge made the long walk from the bullpen to the pitcher's mound for the ninth inning of Sunday's game against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, the crowd's reaction seemed a combination of encouragement and trepidation.

No doubt, the perspiration on many of the fans was from more than just the hot, sunny day as Lidge prepared to protect the Phillies' one-run lead.

The first stress alert came when Josh Thole began the inning by floating a single over the head of second baseman Wilson Valdez. Lidge went to 2-0 on Ruben Tejada before getting him on a roller to first base. Then Chris Carter, who had a run-scoring double off Roy Halladay in his previous at-bat, also grounded to first, moving Thole to third with Jose Reyes, who had two doubles, coming up.

Lidge had been throwing two sliders for every fastball, but catcher Carlos Ruiz instructed Lidge to start Reyes with a fastball down and in, and the reliever gave it to him for a strike. Then, with the count 1-1, Lidge nailed down the 6-5 win by getting Reyes to fly out to center off a slider.

Since Washington's Ryan Zimmerman left Lidge dazed with a walk-off homer nine days ago, the Phils closer has faced 15 batters and retired 13 of them. He also had four saves for his best week since who knows when.

Any discussion about the Phillies' chance for a third consecutive National League pennant usually centers on Lidge. He doesn't have to be the perfect closer of 2008, but he has to be better than the Lidge of 2009 or the one who has had a tough time finding a groove this season.

"I had an off-game in Washington, but recently I feel real good," Lidge said after getting his 14th save. "I'm able to put the ball on both sides of the plate, and I think that's key. I need to just keep it rolling and keep doing what I've been doing."

Whether or not the past week was a turning point for Lidge remains to be seen, of course, but he said the busy workload has helped him find a groove.

"I think I'll start doing my best when I get some consistent work and get out there a lot," he said. "Fortunately, we've been playing well and I've been getting a lot of opportunities, and I think for me that's key.

"Coming off that injury and trying to get consistent work, it's been tough to try to get into a good rhythm. But right now I feel real good and I can kind of feel that control and command come around and be able to finish innings."

There was evidence Lidge's confidence, frequently characterized as fragile, is growing. He also said he's finally comfortable pitching out of a stretch, which he did Sunday with the tying run on third and two out.

"Before, I kept going to the windup because I didn't feel comfortable," he said. "Now I'm feeling comfortable both ways, and that's why I'm able to get out of innings pitching out of the stretch."

Lidge attributes his newfound comfort level to the increased workload as well.

"It's not anything mechanical," he said. "It's just getting the repetitions and getting into a groove. Eventually it comes. Sometimes it takes a little longer than you hope."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743


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