07/16/08 3:22 AM ET
Lidge enjoys experience, if not result
Phils closer gives up winning run in 15th; Utley goes 1-for-3
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
"Just like anything other game, I'll be trying to relax myself and enjoying it," Lidge said in the hours before a game that would stretch into the next morning.
The game was enjoyable for any fan, but not exactly relaxing for Lidge, whom the National League preferred to have enter with a lead and nail down the game. But the eighth-inning lead never made it to him.
He didn't pitch until the 15th, when he gave up two hits and a sacrifice fly by the Rangers' Michael Young to give the American League a 4-3 victory. Lidge took the loss, while Phillies teammate Chase Utley started and went 1-for-3 with a strikeout.
"One thing closers never like is an extra-inning game when you're on the road, and you're up and down a lot [warming up] I don't know how many innings in a row," Lidge said. "It's definitely tiring. But unfortunately, I wasn't able to get it done."
Lidge, appearing in his first Midsummer Classic since 2005 with the Astros, enjoyed his experience, if not the result. He offered no excuses for singles by the Rangers' Ian Kinsler and the Rays' Dioner Navarro that put the game in jeopardy.
"The thing about the inning was they put some pretty good swings on some good pitches," he said. "I don't think I was tired or anything. It was an awesome day. They just did a good job of putting the bat on the ball."
Utley, who singled in the sixth inning, said what will stick out most for him was "just how long it lasted" -- a record 4 hours, 50 minutes. He played six innings, meaning he watched more than participated.
But he understood what it would have been like to be a fan.
"I think from a fan's standpoint, it had to be pretty exciting," Utley said. "A lot of good things happened. There were a lot of intense situations."
Both players described the experience as "overwhelming," especially sharing the field with most of the game's living Hall of Famers during pregame ceremonies. Utley said some of his biggest memories were spending time with Phillies great Mike Schmidt during a pregame parade and standing beside Rod Carew during introductions.
Lidge said he was impressed to meet "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks. It also gave him another chance to be with fellow Coloradan Rich "Goose" Gossage, who enters the Hall this summer.
Lidge said he has spoken with Gossage before, but this year during a Gossage trip to Philadelphia he was able to gain valuable information.
Lidge said he began wearing No. 54 when the Astros assigned it to him early in his career. But he kept it when he learned that Gossage wore it through his career.
Now, Lidge said, he has a window into why Gossage wore the number so well.
"We got to talk pitching -- that was really cool for me," Lidge said. "We mostly talked about how to approach hitters, pitching inside and what he did when he pitched.
"He talked about pitching inside a lot. He's just not seeing guys do it. I know in my career when I neglect to go to a side of the plate for awhile, I start falling into some bad habits."
Regardless of the fact he wound up with a loss, Lidge returns to the Phillies a confident pitcher. After a slump in 2006, Lidge regained his groove in '07 while still with the Astros -- no matter whether his growing list of critics believed it.
"I did have to get over trying to show people that there was nothing wrong with me," said Lidge, who has 20 saves in 40 appearances this season. "No matter how I did, even if I go through a good run, it wasn't good enough.
"It got to the point after the first month of 2007 where I said, 'I don't care anymore what people think. I need to go out there and throw for myself.' That's when things started turning around. Now I know from that experience what I need to do."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.