PHILADELPHIA -- Whether he's firing a fastball or tossing a befuddling slider, Brad Lidge doesn't give opposing hitters much chance. The dominating closer has toppled everyone from veterans to unfortunate rookies with his array of ninth-inning devastation while racking up the best season of his career. Spending 2008 in Philadelphia, the righty is closing in on perfection.Since the save became an official statistic in 1969, no Phillies closer with 20 or more saves in a season has gone a season without a blown save, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's pretty awesome," Jamie Moyer said, after Lidge notched his 40th save. "I don't think you can assume anything, but he's done a great job for us." Which is why Lidge is a finalist in this year's DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award. The winner will be presented during the postseason. Fans can help determine this year's winner, and everyone who votes will be entered into a sweepstakes for the chance to win a two-day, one-night trip for two to Game 4 of this year's World Series. The prize will include round-trip airfare, if needed, to the National League city of the Fall Classic, as well as accommodations and two tickets to the game. To create the ballot, the editorial staff at MLB.com compiled a list of 15 relievers who have had outstanding regular seasons. The 10 finalists then were chosen from the list by a special Major League Baseball yellow-ribbon panel. While with the Astros, Lidge won the DHL Presents the Major League Delivery Man of the Month for May 2005, when he posted a 1.64 ERA and saved eight games. Acquired in November, Lidge has dominated the ninth inning, saving 40 games, and is the only regular closer this season without a blown save. Looking for a fresh start with the Phillies, the righty turned his performance into a three-year contract extension. "Forty straight saves?" manager Charlie Manuel said after Lidge shut down the Marlins in the ninth inning on Sept. 21. "That's pretty good. Hopefully he'll get ... let's see ... I can't count that quick to the World Series. A few more." Lidge heads a bullpen that is among the best in the NL. While the Mets have struggled in that department -- blowing a combined 29 leads -- the Phillies have surrendered only 15. When they lead after the eighth inning, Philadelphia is 75-0. "That's Lidge right there," Manuel said. "He's been tremendous. He's been everything we wanted. We expected a lot out of him, and he's been more." Lidge is up against Los Angeles of Anaheim's Francisco Rodriguez, New York's Mariano Rivera, Kansas City's Joakim Soria, Boston's Jonathan Papelbon, Toronto's B.J. Ryan, Colorado's Brian Fuentes, Minnesota's Joe Nathan, Chicago's Bobby Jenks and Oakland's Brad Ziegler. "Maybe when you're closer, that extra adrenaline is even better, when you're in a situation like that with these games being so important," Lidge said. "For me, it feels better than if you're out of the mix."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.