PHILADELPHIA -- Had Brad Lidge ended his season 47-for-48 in save opportunities for the year, he certainly could look back on that and think, "I had a pretty good year."
Except it wouldn't have felt that way. Lidge was on the mound for Game 5 of the World Series on Wednesday, called upon to protect the narrowest of leads after the Phillies pushed ahead by one run in the seventh. This was by far the biggest game of his life, and it was no time to record his first blown save of the season.
With a runner on second, two outs, Eric Hinske at the plate and 45,940 screaming -- and freezing -- fans on their feet at Citizens Bank Park, Lidge, working with an 0-2 count, watched Hinske swing through his signature slider, putting an official end to the Phillies' 28-year titleless drought.
Lidge immediately dropped to his knees, raised his arms in the air and waited for catcher Carlos Ruiz, who jumped into his arms seconds before Ryan Howard began a team-wide pileup. Pandemonium swept across the field, into the dugout and into the stands, where the crowd was having their own frenzied title celebration.
"I really had to try and take a step back and try to relax," Lidge said of his confrontation with Hinske. "You never expect this. I can't even describe the feeling. I just fell down to my knees."
As Lidge expressed himself during the first of dozens of interviews he'd grant before the night was over, super utilityman Eric Bruntlett, Lidge's teammate with Houston and now with Philadelphia, ran up to the closer and embraced his friend. Bruntlett was with Lidge during the tough times with the Astros, and he was bursting with excitement on this night, not just for himself.
"I would have been happy for him, no matter what team he's on," Bruntlett said. "As a friend, I'm just so happy for him. No one deserves this more than him."
Bruntlett wasn't at all surprised that Lidge was on the mound for the final clinching moment.
"Brad and I were talking before this game originally started, whatever day that was," Bruntlett said. "He made a comment: 'Is there any doubt this is going to be a one-run game and I have to come in and close it?' I think the way it ended was fitting. The guy was perfect all year. That was a perfect way to end it.
"Of course, he has to let a guy get into scoring position and make everybody a little nervous and keep it interesting. That was also fitting. That really was a perfect way to end it."
Bruntlett, who entered the game as a defensive replacement for Pat Burrell, seemed dazed as he tried to recount his reaction once the last out was made. He avoided the pileup when it first started and decided a more prudent course of action would be to act as the proverbial cherry on top instead.
A PERFECT HOME RUN
Since the LCS began in 1969, nine teams have gone undefeated at home in the postseason.
"I didn't feel like getting stepped on and jumped on," he said. "When it was all kind of done, I got on top. That's kind of my strategy. I jumped up and down for a bit. I found Pat Burrell on the fringes, maybe jumped up and down with him like an idiot for a bit."
There was a lot of that after the Phillies clinched the title. The field at Citizens Bank Park turned into a mosh pit of ecstatic Phillies players and their families, plus a myriad of front-office executives, clubhouse attendants and grounds-crew workers.
Following the presentation of the World Series championship trophy, Howard grabbed a "2008 World Champion" flag and along with a few teammates ran around the entire field, allowing the fans a closeup view.
As Howard ran, the crowd sang. Queen's "We are the Champions" blared on the loudspeaker, and virtually every fan joined in to create one deafening version of the classic hit.
"We said when this began, we were going to put '93 in the past, and we sure did," starter Brett Myers said. "And we put in '80 in the past, too, because our banner's going up there now."
Inside the clubhouse, the party was on. With a protective plastic cover shielding the lockers, players, wearing goggles and their 2008 World Series champion T-shirts, began the traditional champagne celebration. Bubbly was sprayed from corner to corner, with no one spared -- players, staff, kids and families were all fair game.
At one point, lefty reliever Scott Eyre got down on his knees, handed each of his sons a bottle of champagne and instructed them to "pour it on."
Three months after the Cubs unceremoniously let him go, Eyre took in the chaos at Citizens Bank Park with awe.
"I literally had to ask my wife, 'You want to go to Philly?'" he said of the day the Cubs traded him. "We had heard horrible things. Pat said, 'Do your job, and they'll love you.' Jamie Moyer said the same kind of thing: 'Pitch, show some emotion like you actually care' -- which I do -- 'and they'll love you.' And they have."
Native Philadelphian Moyer, who skipped school as a kid to attend the 1980 parade, called the scene surrounding him now as "unbelievable."
"I've waited a long time to be in a World Series," the 45-year-old veteran said. "And to be a winner is just an unbelievable feeling. I skipped school to go to a parade, and now, I'm going to be on one of those floats. Part of that dream is coming true."
Howard, fresh off his lap around the warning track and wearing his signature grin, grabbed a few bottles of champagne and ran into the middle of the party.
"Now, it's time to enjoy myself," Howard said. "And celebrate."
Along with the City of Brotherly Love.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.