It's largely been forgotten in the wake of all that happened six months later, but Brad Lidge made his regular-season Phillies debut during a visit to Cincinnati in April 2008. A day after pitching one inning of mop-up relief in an 8-2 loss on April 6, the club's new closer came on to try for his first save of the 2008 season. But it wasn't easy: after coming in with a 5-2 lead and quickly recording the first two outs, Lidge issued a walk (to newly acquired Phils minor leaguer Paul Bako). Corey Patterson followed with a fly ball to left that So Taguchi, in for Pat Burrell, misplayed into a two base error to put men on second and third. Lidge then intentionally walked Ken Griffey Junior and uncorked a wild pitch to score Bako. But he got pinch-hitter Javier Valentin on a called third strike that I still remember as one of the worst-called pitches this side of Eric Gregg in the 1997 playoffs to register the first save of what turned out to be a very special season.
Back at Great American Ballpark Tuesday night trying to protect a 4-3 lead, Lidge--coming off two weekend saves in Washington that raised hopes his struggles through the first six weeks of the 2009 campaign might be through--found himself in trouble again. The inning began with a deep flyout to right on an 0-2 pitch that caught too much plate. Alex Gonzalez followed with a hard-hit grounder to short that Jimmy Rollins could not field cleanly, ruled an infield single. Lidge then walked pinch-hitter Laynce Nix to put the tying run in scoring position and the potential winner on base. He ran the count full on Willy Taveras, but after two fouls, he got the speedy outfielder to chase a low slider for strike three. Evidently settled, Lidge then retired Jerry Hairston Jr. on a soft fly to center that ended the game.
His scoreless inning of relief, following zeros put up by Clay Condrey and Ryan Madson, ensured Cole Hamels' second victory of the season. The lefty ace worked six innings, throwing a season-high 117 pitches while allowing three runs--including solo homers from Jay Bruce and Hairston--on five hits. He was just a bit better than Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who surrendered a Ryan Howard solo home run in the second inning and three runs in the fifth on RBI hits from Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley and a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly.
The victory was the Phillies' fifth straight, tying their longest win streak of the season, and ensured that they would remain no worse than tied for the NL East lead. Jamie Moyer takes the mound tomorrow against the Reds' Aaron Harang.