10/20/08 4:45 PM EST
Lidge a factor in Phillies' trip to Florida
Closer gave up winning run in ASG to give AL home-field edge
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
Blame the 15th inning of the 2008 All-Star Game. Lidge, as the last-man standing in the National League bullpen, allowed a run in that fateful inning at Yankee Stadium, costing the National League home-field advantage for the Fall Classic.Consider the Phillies affected. Fittingly, the Rays' Scott Kazmir picked up the win for the AL, and Evan Longoria doubled in the tying run in the eighth inning. The Junior Circuit has earned home-field advantage in all five seasons since the All-Star Game has been used as a determining factor. The AL has won three of those five World Series, including 2005, when the White Sox beat Lidge's Astros. "It's funny how it's worked out, but I feel fortunate that this situation has come into play, because here we are [in the World Series]," Lidge said. "I extended myself as much as possible in that game. I have no regrets. I wish we would've had home-field advantage, but it wasn't meant to be." What was meant to be was the Phillies playing in the World Series, after going 1-4 in their previous five appearances in the Fall Classic.
Lidge pitched in the unforgettable July 15 Midsummer Classic. The American League had tied the game at 3 in the eighth -- the second deficit overcome -- when Longoria smacked a ground-rule double.The Phillies closer warmed up for innings nine through 14 -- he had never warmed up more than once in any game before that appearance -- before finally entering the game in the 15th. He loaded the bases and allowed a game-ending sacrifice fly to Michael Young. Though Lidge wouldn't acknowledge it until a month later, that experience affected his season. In August, he rested a few days to combat mild tendinitis. It didn't damage his perfect season, as the first-year Phillies reliever closed out all 41 save chances with his new team during the regular season and all five in the postseason. Though his most recent game-ending outing didn't come with a save, it was equally euphoric, as it spurred a third on-field celebration, complete with hugs, champagne and a special moment with catcher Carlos Ruiz. About 45 minutes after the accolades and high-fives stopped, Ruiz presented Lidge with the game ball, a keepsake gift from catcher to closer. "It's back at the house," Lidge said. "There are things that will be displayed in my baseball memories area. I was surprised he gave it to me. He's done such a great job all year that I thought he should keep it. If I was in the same situation, I might keep the thing. I'll have to reward him at some point." Ruiz may have another decision, should the Phillies win four more games, and capture the second World Series championship in franchise history. "I'll still give it to him," Ruiz said. Lidge said he'll offer the ball to his catcher. "We'll have to see. I may pull the old switcheroo," Lidge said, with a laugh. "If he catches the last out in the World Series, he can take it. But I'll take it if he gives it to me. "We might have to cut it in half, chop the leather off."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.