The scenario has played out many times for Brad Lidge. The starter hands off the lead and the bullpen pushes the game to the deciding ninth frame. This time, the margin of error was extremely small, a 1-0 advantage over a hungry Houston Astros squad that had only three hits all night.
Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie led off the inning with a double just inside the right field line. Left fielder J.D. Martinez followed with a walk. Houston had men on first and second with nobody out. The Nationals’ 1-0 lead appeared in serious jeopardy.
Lidge shook his head afterwards at the predicament.
“Man, one of these times I will get a one-two-three inning,” Lidge said. “Obviously, I am just happy it worked out. It was another really, tight ball game. You can’t make a whole lot of mistakes in games like that.”
What was going through Lidge’s mind after two men got on base, with the tying run at second base and nobody out?
“I was pretty angry to be honest, pretty pissed off for not coming out there and doing better,” Lidge said. “At the same time, after I talked to the guys and stepped off the mound and take a deep breath, I say, ‘what do I need to do to get out of this inning and not let that run score?’ I think that is the bottom line. You need to kick in the focus there, otherwise, it is too late.”
Catcher Jesus Flores was able to calm Lidge down after the rough start to the ninth.
“Lidge was leaving the ball in the middle of the plate,” Flores said. “He was trying to be too perfect. I went out there and I talked to him and said, ‘let’s go’.”
The next batter was the cleanup hitter, first baseman Carlos Lee, who was due to break out in the series. Lidge induced a fly out to center field for the first out. Two more hard fought outs and the Nationals had won the game.
But Lidge remembered the key at-bat against the Astros’ home run hitter.
“A guy like Carlos Lee steps into the box and you say, “oh, hey, we got to get going right now’,” Lidge said. “You don’t have time to play around in that situation. Fortunately, I was able to get it right at that time.”
At that was the key to that whole moment: two men on, no one out, one run game. Many pitchers would have caved in to the pressure. But experience played a role in Lidge getting out of this tight spot.
Jayson Werth, teammates with Lidge in Philadelphia from 2008-2010 and now again with the Nationals, said experience in game changing moments played a heavy role in that ninth-inning escape.
“It’s about having the experience, and I’ve said it before, that’s one thing, this team, over the course of the year goes on, that’s one thing we’ll gain, and I think coming down the stretch, that’s one thing we will have,” Werth said.
“Guys like Brad and some of the older guys, (Mark) DeRosa and the guys that have been there and show consistency and experience on a day-to-day basis that will rub off, and I think coming down the stretch, we’ll be right where we need to be.”