Utilizing a cutter that he'd only previously displayed during the regular-season finale and breathing the frigid Denver air that surrounded him in his youth, Lidge conquered the challenge provided by a trio of left-handers and worked a scoreless ninth that gave the Phillies a 6-5 win over the Rockies at Coors Field.
"It felt great," said Lidge after converting his first save since Sept. 20. "I really feel like maybe the last week or so, I had a couple of outings at home and I felt real comfortable, real good. I kind of was starting to get that feeling again that things were going to go right."
While posting a 7.21 ERA and blowing 11 of his 42 save opportunities, there were times this year when Lidge felt like everything was going wrong.
But when he got Troy Tulowitzki to fly out to end Game 3 with runners on first and second base, the veteran right-hander exorcised some of the demons that haunted him during the regular season and more importantly gave the Phillies a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five NLDS.
With a win in either of the final two games, the Phillies will advance to their second consecutive NL Championship Series and be one step closer to that World Series euphoria that they celebrated when Lidge got the final out of their 2008 championship season.
"We as a team have all the confidence in the world in him," said Phillies right-handed reliever Ryan Madson, who took over the closer role when Lidge's struggles extended into September. "When he got the ball in the ninth, we knew he was going to get it done. I'm glad he got the chance to do it tonight and I'm glad he got the job done because he deserves it."
|Gm. 1||PHI 5, COL 1||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||COL 5, PHI 4||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||PHI 6, COL 5||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 4||PHI 5, COL 4||Wrap||Video|
"Yeah, it's definitely a treat to be able to play here right now," said Lidge, whose youthful days may have prepared him for the sub-freezing temperatures that were present by the time Phillies manager Charlie Manuel called on him to preserve this one-run lead.
Manuel's decision would have been viewed as a no-brainer last year, when Lidge proved perfect with each of the 48 save opportunities he was given during the regular season and playoffs combined. But this year has obviously been much different and the Rockies certainly didn't provide much reason for confidence when they greeted Lidge with four consecutive left-handed hitters.
Having seen left-handers produce a .440 on-base percentage against him during the regular season, Lidge determined it was time to begin utilizing the cutter that he's been toying with dating back to his days with the Astros. Still, before Sunday night, the only other time he'd utilized it in a game was during the scoreless inning he tossed against the Marlins on Oct. 3.
"Fastballs and sliders are my bread and butter and I'm real comfortable and feel confident getting people out with those pitches," Lidge said. "But occasionally if you want to mix in another look to some of those good hitters, those lefties, it's a productive pitch."
Lidge solely utilized his fastball-slider repertoire to get Brad Hawpe, who was previously 2-for-4 against the Phillies closer, to ground out. After a walk to Carlos Gonzalez, the veteran reliever utilized the cutter to get pinch-hitter Jason Giambi to hit a harmless pop fly behind third base.
Todd Helton, who had four hits in 11 previous at-bats against Lidge, was walked before Tulowitzki directed a fly ball that was caught in shallow left field to end a content that lasted slightly more than four hours.
"When you get out there on the mound in a situation like that, you're just trying to focus and lock in and execute your pitches," Lidge said. "So it's great that it happened here. Hopefully we'll get another chance to get a win tomorrow."
Lidge's excitement was shared by a group of teammates who seemingly never lost faith in his ability to rekindle last year's successful form.
"It's amazing," Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said. "I feel great for him. I've said all along that I want to keep handing him the ball. Playing behind him, he's the guy I want coming in to close the game. That's what we brought him here to do."