Closing the door on Game 2
Go-to relievers look forward after slips trying to win game
One of them still has an opportunity to be the subject of the ultimate World Series souvenir photo, the final image of a championship season burned into everyone's memory for years to come.You know the one. See: Troy Percival, arching his back to let out a scream in 2002 for the Angels. See: Keith Foulke, just last year, bursting into a smile as wide as his home state of Texas, awaiting a hug from catcher Jason Varitek that was 86 years in the making for the Red Sox. Suffice to say Game 2 wasn't a souvenir moment for either one of the closers in this year's World Series. No photos for the scrapbook on this one, thanks. Regardless, sometime in the next few days, Bobby Jenks of the White Sox or Brad Lidge of the Astros could be that guy, the focal point of that photo op of a career, the closer who closes out the World Series. Before we even get to that point, however, both closers have to turn the page after what has to go down as the biggest letdown of their respective careers, simply because of the stage. One night after looking like Godzilla in pinstripes, unleashing fireballs at 100 mph, Jenks let a two-run lead slip away in the ninth on a two-run single by pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino. One appearance after giving up perhaps the most colossal homer in National League Championship Series history to Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, Lidge gave up the game-winning homer to Scott Podsednik -- Scott Podsednik, for crying out loud. But it's the very nature of their job to move past these things. And they must. "Baseball to me is a game of nexts -- the next hitter, the next pitch, the next inning, the next game," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said Monday as the two teams prepared for Tuesday's Game 3. "It's not a game of lasts." According to Astros manager Phil Garner, the best way to turn the last one into the next one is to simply pick up the phone the next time the game's on the line in the ninth inning. For Garner, nothing more needs to be said to Lidge. "I'll say the next time we have the same situation, (if) it's Tuesday night, he'll be in the ballgame," Garner said. "He's my closer. He's our go-to guy. He's going to be fine. He'll do just fine." In the case of these two electric-armed stoppers -- Jenks with his radar-busting fastball and knee-buckling curve, Lidge with a fastball/slider combination that's as good as there is in baseball -- there's a factor that can overcome any adversity they might have faced before. In baseball parlance, it's called "stuff," and it can be the great equalizer.
"With guys like Lidge and Bobby, they've got too good of stuff to worry about them," says veteran White Sox reliever Cliff Politte. "They throw strikes, they throw hard, they both have good breaking balls. They're both capable of going out there with the stuff they have, and they can just forget about what happened last time."Regardless of the nastiness of their pitches, these guys are raring to go back out there on the mound and use that stuff. They're certainly not sitting in a corner moping over their last outing. "You can't dwell over little things like that, or it's going to get stuck in your head the next time you do go out," Jenks said Monday, possibly taking the term "little" a little too far in this instance, but you get the point. "Instead of focusing in on what you have to do today, you're still caught up in what happened yesterday. If that happens, you're not going to get it done today." That said, some might wonder if that Pujols meeting carried into Lidge's meeting with Podsednik. Lidge scoffs at the notion. "I know a lot of people want to think maybe it did, but it doesn't if you're a closer," Lidge said. "The next hitter I faced was Reggie Sanders and I was able to strike him out, and at that point it's dead. That's definitely in my rearview mirror, and nothing that I'm really thinking too much about. It's unfortunate it happens back to back [outings], because maybe it looks like that." Whatever it looks like, Lidge is adamant he's not going to go all Trevor Hoffman on us and break out a 75 mph changeup as his out pitch. "I'm not changing a darn thing," Lidge said. "I'm ready to get back out there as soon as possible." You can bank on Jenks feeling the same way. Soon enough, we'll see just how well one or both of them handles the next time and puts the last time aside. And there just might be a photo to remember it by.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.