Philadelphia’s beleaguered closer stranded runners at first and second on a bitterly cold Sunday night when he retired Troy Tulowitzki(notes) on a flyball for the final out, preserving the Phillies’ 6-5 win over the Colorado Rockies in Game 3 of their NL playoff series.
“When the postseason starts, it’s a completely clean slate,” said Lidge, who is from Denver. “It’s definitely a treat to be able to play here right now, get a chance to pitch in front of family and friends.”
In a game that started with temperatures near freezing and ended past midnight, the defending World Series champs took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. They can wrap it up Monday when they send Game 1 winner Cliff Lee(notes) against Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez(notes).
The save was surely sweet redemption for Lidge. He converted all 48 save chances last year, capped when he struck out Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinske(notes) in Game 5 to clinch the Phillies’ World Series title. But he lost his perfect touch this season—he led the majors with 11 blown saves, went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and briefly lost his job in September.
“He’s had ups and downs,” Howard said. “Right now he’s here to finish games. That’s what matters. I was glad to see him out there.”
The ball hit Utley’s right leg while he was still in the batter’s box and should have been ruled a foul ball, but home plate umpire Jerry Meals didn’t call the ball dead.
“It looked like it hit him,” Helton said. “That was my first reaction that the ball hit him. Then I thought he was out (at first).”
First-base umpire Ron Kulpa ruled, however, that Helton was pulled off the bag by Street’s throw over the runner.
Meals told The Associated Press after the game that he missed the call. He said replays showed the ball indeed hit Utley.
“Yeah, the ball came up and grazed off his leg and continued rolling up the line,” Meals said. “No. 1, it wasn’t seen by myself or anybody. If you look at it, you’ll be able to see it. Off the front leg, got him up in the knee-thigh area. It just grazed him and the ball continued to roll the way it was rolling. I just saw a ball hit and rolling out there and that’s it.
“Chase Utley took off like it was nothing,” Meals added. “He gave no indication to us that it hit him. Whatever percent of the time, you’re going to get a guy that’s going to stop if it hits him.
Utley said, “The ball might have caught me.”
“Nobody said anything, so I ran hard,” he said. “I check swung. The ball checked up in front of me. It might have hit my leg. But nobody made a call.”
Umpires have had a rocky first week of the playoffs, including an admitted missed call in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Yankees and Twins series.
Lidge came out of the bullpen for the ninth and retired pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe(notes) before walking Carlos Gonzalez(notes), who swiped second. Pinch-hitter Jason Giambi(notes) fouled out before Todd Helton(notes) walked, bringing up Tulowitzki.
The Rockies’ cleanup hitter has excelled in these situations this season, but not tonight. He got under the pitch and flied out meekly to left to end it. Tulowitzki slammed his bat to the ground with both hands when he lifted the routine fly, then flung down his helmet once it was caught.
“I felt like I got a good swing,” Tulowitzki said. “I got under it a little bit, hit it high. It’s a situation you want to be in.”
Rockies manager Jim Tracy suggested that with speedsters on the base paths— Eric Young Jr., perhaps the fastest player in the majors, was pinch running for Helton at first—all Tulowitzki needed was a hit toward the gap to send the Rockies home winners, .
The temperature when Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel(notes) threw his first pitch at 8:08 p.m. was a crisp 35 degrees, tying the record low set when Cleveland hosted Florida in Game 4 of the 1997 World Series. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was the Indians’ hitting coach.
It was so chilly the players’ breaths swirled around them like smoke as the mercury dipped into the 20s.
At least there was none of the icy mist, bitter wind, freezing rain and snow that blanketed the downtown Denver ballpark a day earlier, when the gametime temperature would have been 26 degrees.
“That might have been difficult for the Broncos to play in that yesterday, much less a baseball game,” Tracy said.
Players and coaches looked like they were dressed for a day on the slopes, not a night at the ballpark, donning ski caps and extra gear to stay warm and dry, and they huddled by heaters and on warmed benches in the dugouts and bullpens.
“Once the game started, I didn’t get cold at all,” Manuel said. “I figured the guys on the field didn’t if I didn’t. I’m standing in the dugout. Of course, there was a heater there. But I was standing behind the heater. That’s how smart I am.”
With the game pushed back a day, Manuel ditched plans to give 37-year-old right-hander Pedro Martinez(notes) his first postseason start in five years and went with rookie left-hander J.A. Happ(notes) instead. That neutralized the Rockies’ most potent lineup, sending third baseman Ian Stewart(notes) and Seth Smith(notes) to the bench.
Tracy juggled his lineup, benching Hawpe, his All-Star right fielder who has slumped over the second half of the season, and replacing him with Ryan Spilborghs(notes). He also moved catcher Yorvit Torrealba(notes) up two spots to fifth in the order. Torrealba went 0 for 4.
Carlos Ruiz(notes) broke a 4-all tie in the sixth with his second run-scoring single, this one off Jose Contreras(notes), who walked the two batters ahead of him. Tulowitzki’s sacrifice fly in the seventh tied it at 5.
NOTES: Yorvit Torrealba Jr., 12, who was kidnapped in Venezuela this summer along with a couple of older relatives before being released unharmed, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his father, who embraced his boy afterward. … Utley homered in the first.