ST. LOUIS -- Amid a exasperated and quieted crowd at Busch Stadium, the only audible sound that followed Joe Mather's flail at Brad Lidge's one-of-a-kind slider was the procession of exuberant high-fives. The hand claps and exhales of varying volumes provided a contrast from the disbelieving looks from those in the Cardinals' dugout and the 44,655 who thought they would see the Phillies closer's first blown save of the season. Lidge bent, but didn't break, and the Phillies squeaked out a 5-4 win over the Cardinals that vaulted them to a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League East, thanks to losses by the Mets and Marlins.
"I knew there was an off-day [Monday], so I wanted to get some extra work in today, and throw some extra pitches," Lidge said, able to laugh at his 26-pitch tightrope walk. "It's never easy." While that may be true, some of his 28 saves had to be viewed as easier than Sunday's, like any one of his 10 where he didn't allow a baserunner or the nine others where he allowed just one. "Sometimes they actually are easier, but they never feel easier," Lidge said. Perhaps the extremely forceful hand-slap with catcher Carlos Ruiz is proof enough of this save's difficulty level. Called on to protect a two-run lead, Lidge began the ninth by allowing a home run to Troy Glaus. After an out, Aaron Miles singled and Rick Ankiel bounced one over Ryan Howard's head. With Miles charging hard, Jayson Werth slid to cut it off, and held Miles at third. With contact hitter Cesar Izturis up, Lidge instead made contact with him, plunking him to load the bases. Though not on purpose, Lidge liked his chances against rookies Nick Stavinoha and Joe Mather, neither of who had seen a slider of this magnitude. Seven pitches later -- game over. "He took advantage of a couple of young hitters," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "Izturis does a good job of putting the ball in play," Lidge said. "When he was up, I'm thinking, 'Don't make a mistake over the plate with something that could tie the game.' That one got away from me. I obviously respect the righties that came up, but I knew I hadn't faced them before, and felt confident against them." His teammates did, too. "That's why he gets paid the big bucks," said reliever Ryan Madson, who also acknowledged that it's tougher to watch a reliever squirm than to actually be the one squirming. Madson also earned his pay, albeit escaping a smaller jam than Lidge. He entered the game in an unraveling eighth inning, with one out, two on and Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick looming. He walked Pujols on four pitches, then dealt with Ludwick, who had already had four home runs in the series. "I was trying to be calm," Madson said. "With Pujols, I was a little too pumped. I sat back when Ludwick came up, and took a deep breath. You have to bear down and make a good pitch. That's what I did with Ludwick because he's hot. I didn't pitch around Pujols [who is 0-for-10 against Madson]. That wasn't the plan, but it worked." Madson and Lidge had a lead to protect because Shane Victorino delivered a tiebreaking three-run homer off Russ Springer, his seventh home run in 17 games. The switch-hitter flew to center as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and remained in the game. His at-bat capped a four-run eighth. Before that, Pat Burrell tied the game at 2 with a single. Starter Brett Myers delivered six strong innings, staying aggressive with his fastball and surrendering one run on four hits. He challenged Ludwick in the fourth and it didn't work out. "It looked like he was stubborn for about 450 [feet] worth," Manuel said. "He pitched pretty good." Philadelphia needed it, as it survived on pitching and timely hitting in taking two of three from St. Louis. The Phils hit .181 in the series, and collected just four hits off Todd Wellemeyer, a pitcher they tagged for eight runs in a 20-2 win on June 13. Myers didn't say much about his effort, but joked that he "appreciated" the Cardinals swinging at his pitches. "Less work for me." But there was no mistaking Myers' lighter mood, which is a stark contract to the brooding player before his demotion to Triple-A. Madson, his closest friend on the team, said he just kept it light around Myers, and didn't let him get down. "There's no need to be serious," Madson said. "He wants to get back to where he is now more than anybody, so I just act normal, and not try to be the guy who gives him all the advice. I'm just there to crack jokes with him. He's a strong-minded guy. That's why he's good. That's why he's at where he's at."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.