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Fill-in closer Brad Lidge overcame a ninth-inning triple yesterday to earn his first save.
This, however, wasn't like any of those previous save opportunities. This was Lidge's first time pitching in a Nationals uniform, and only the second time he'd been entrusted to close a game in two years.
Did that make the whole scene yesterday afternoon feel out of the ordinary?
"It felt pretty familiar, to be honest," the 35-year-old said. "I think once you get out there and you're facing the Cubs at Wrigley, you go back to facing the Cubs at Wrigley. It's a different team, of course, and the guys behind me are different. But I know what I wanted to do out there, and you kind of just fall back on what you believe is going to work."
For the most part, what Lidge believed was going to work indeed worked. He recorded the necessary three outs, preserved the Nationals' 2-1 victory over Chicago and emerged with his first save while wearing anything other than a Phillies uniform in five years.
There was, unfortunately, one significant hiccup along the way, one that nearly spelled disaster for the Nationals. After striking out Reed Johnson to open the ninth, Lidge left a fastball out over the plate to Ian Stewart, who belted the ball to right field.
Lidge's immediate reaction was not one of worry. After seeing at least three sure home runs stay in the park thanks to a fierce wind blowing straight in from center field, he was convinced Stewart's ball would be caught by Jayson Werth.
"That's the one thing on a day like today: You can't hit the ball out of the park," he said. "That's what I'm thinking. And when he hit that ball, I'm like: 'Fine. He hit it, but that's not going anywhere.' And all of a sudden, I turn around and I see Werth drifting back, and I'm like: 'Oh my gosh, he really hit that ball pretty good.'"
Sure enough, the ball kept carrying toward the fence, sending Werth on a mad scramble to haul it in. The wind did prevent it from landing in the bleachers, but it also pushed it to the right and just past Werth's outstretched glove. By the time Werth corralled it and got it back into the infield, Stewart was sliding into third base with a triple.
Even then, Lidge was confident in his ability to keep the tying run from crossing the plate.
"At that point, I was like: 'Alright, I can get out of this now.'"
True to his word, Lidge did get out of it. He got Jeff Baker to chop a grounder to third, where Ryan Zimmerman made a nifty play on the ball and fired home to nail pinch-runner Joe Mather.
Moments later, Lidge caught Marlon Byrd looking at a 3-2 slider, ending the game and locking up his first save since August 3, 2011.
The man who recorded the final out of the 2008 World Series in Philadelphia hadn't experienced a situation like this in quite some time, but he harkened back to all those previous save opportunities to help him get through this one.
"I was just trying to tell myself to just take a step back, take a deep breath and throw strikes," he said. "Because you're going to have that extra adrenaline in that situation. Fortunately I've done it enough times where I know how to breathe and just relax and throw strikes. It's definitely a higher-intensity situation."