HOUSTON (AP)—Brad Lidge got sympathy from his teammates—even the pitcher who gave up the game-winning homer.
Lidge blew the save by allowing a homer in the ninth inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 10-inning win over the Houston Astros. With Lidge’s recent history, few will remember that it was Chad Qualls who surrendered the go-ahead two-run shot to Jason Bay in the 10th.
“I felt bad,” Qualls said when asked about Lidge. “It wasn’t the way that we all had it pictured … my heart went out (to him) there a little bit today.”
Lidge has been dogged by questions about his mind-set since Albert Pujols’ home run in the 2005 NL championship series. He says he’s over it, but didn’t help his case last season when he blew six saves and finished with a 5.28 ERA.
“It’s not a nightmare,” Lidge said. “Honestly, the guy hit a good pitch tonight. I felt good out there and it’s an unfortunate result. The reality is … I still feel confident. So I’m not going to worry about tonight.”
Bay’s hit off Qualls came with two outs on a 0-2 pitch and landed in the Crawford Boxes in left field and disappointed a Minute Maid Park-record crowd of 43,803 that included former president George H. W. Bush.
“We got great pitching,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “And something that has eluded us all year last year showed up here on the first day (and) that is some big at-bats at the right time.”
The game went to extra innings after Lidge gave up a solo homer to Xavier Nady in the ninth that tied it at 2.
Jose Bautista then lined a double into the left-field corner and the crowd booed again.
“Not good,” Astros manager Phil Garner said of Lidge’s performance. “The good news is he didn’t let them go any farther. He did throw the ball good to the first couple of batters, then threw a pitch that was not a bad pitch, but it was not a good pitch to throw to Nady. He needed to be a little better with the location.”
With Qualls (0-1) pitching in the 10th, television shots showed Lidge sitting alone and stone-faced, rubbing on his goatee in the dugout.
“After the season he had last year and the struggles that he had, we all wanted him to come out to a hot start and just show the city and all the fans that he’s the Brad of old,” Qualls said.
Lidge said he wasn’t really bothered by the boos.
“It’s really just a matter of being out there and not getting the job done. I don’t feel good because of that,” he said. “If the fans are booing they’re booing, but we need to give them something to cheer about.”
Despite allowing one run and five hits in 7 2-3 innings, Roy Oswalt failed to get the 99th win of his career in his fifth straight opening day start. Toronto’s Roy Halladay also started his fifth straight opener Monday to tie Oswalt for the longest active streak in the majors.
The Houston ace didn’t give up a run until a home run by Nate McLouth, that hit just over the yellow line on the wall in left-center, in the eighth inning.
The Astros gave Carlos Lee a six-year, $100 million contract in an effort to amp up an offense that ranked last in the National League last season. On Monday, Lee went 0-for-4 and Houston’s only scoring came from a player who wasn’t selected as a starter until Saturday, after winning a spring training competition with Jason Lane.
Luke Scott’s two-run homer to center field came in the fifth inning.
Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke, made his first opening day start just three hours from his hometown of Clifton, Texas. The lefty allowed eight hits and two runs with one walk in seven innings. Duke pitched a perfect first inning to escape the opening inning woes that plagued him last season when he gave up 31 runs with a 7.94 ERA.
“Other than the home run Scott hit, that was the way I wanted to throw,” Duke said. “They did get some things off a few pitches, but I let my defense work for me.”
Craig Biggio, who entered the game just 70 hits away from 3,000, added one to the total Monday with a single in the eighth inning.
Duke had only one road win last season. … Oswalt is tied with J.R. Richard, Mike Scott and Shane Reynolds for most consecutive opening day starts in franchise history.