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Lidge to nowhere during season now has Phillies going places

Big League Stew

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What do Brad Lidge(notes) and Mariano Rivera(notes) have in common?

They are the only two closers not to have blown a save this postseason.

Rivera, sure. He converted all but two of his 46 save opportunities in the regular season. He's also 2-for-2 in the playoffs, and hasn't allowed a run in eight innings. He's Mo, the Godfather, the Sandman.

But Lidge? He's just supposed to be scary. For the Phillies.

After a nearly flawless 2008, no major league closer this season had more trouble getting through the ninth inning than Lidge. He blew 11 saves, suffered eight losses and had a 7.21 ERA in the regular season. He gave the Phillies phaithful more heartburn than a bullpen car full of cheesesteaks.

And yet, there was Lidge holding the line — not in a save situation but a moment nearly as critical — against the Dodgers in the ninth inning of NLCS Game 4. His stuff looked as good as it had all season. He struck out Matt Kemp(notes) on a 95-mph fastball and did similarly to Andre Ethier(notes), making him look foolish on breaking balls of varying speeds.

Here's Lidge's two-thirds in video.

Instead of letting them tack on insurance runs, Lidge kept the Dodgers a run ahead, a deficit which the Phillies overcame in the bottom of the ninth. The comeback also gave Lidge his first victory of 2009, one that puts the Phillies within a game of their second straight World Series.

"I lost my voice a little bit actually screaming so loud," Lidge said. "Yeah, it's very special. For me obviously the regular season was not great, but obviously the postseason starts a different type of season."

Credit for keeping Lidge viable as a closer goes to manager Charlie Manuel, who stuck with him no matter how much the elephant in the room wanted him to change things up. Lidge's struggles continued into late September, but Manuel put him in for the last out of the division clincher — not a save opportunity, in fact a blowout — just so something positive would happen with Lidge on the mound.

Only positive things have happened since. In addition to his big "hold" against the Dodgers, he's 3-for-3 in save opportunities in the playoffs.

Phillies fans — folks you want in your corner — get an assist, too. They might have been muttering "Ryan Madson" or "Brett Myers" or "Bill Campbell" or "Ruben Amaro, why didn't you do something?" under their collective breath, but they never let their anxiety turn to rage against Lidge. He probably felt their support, for what it was worth.

Lidge isn't his best old self yet, not quite perfect. But he's not the guy from July either.

"Lidge did a good job at the end," Manuel said. "He did a heck of a job. He got a win tonight. That was his first win. That's pretty good."

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