PHILADELPHIA -- Usually the infielders mob the pitcher after the division-clinching final out. This time, closer Brad Lidge mobbed the infielders after the Phillies beat the Nationals, 4-3. Seeing Ryan Zimmerman's hard shot heading up the middle with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Lidge might have though, "Uh oh." Then, he saw shortstop Jimmy Rollins and his Gold Glove dive into the frame. Rollins speared the ball, shuffled to Chase Utley and watched from the ground as Utley pivoted and fired to first for the game-ending double play.More
Game over. National League East title secured. "I was just so excited when they made that play, so I just ran out there and wanted to hug them," Lidge said. The rest of the pile followed and gathered by the spot where Zimmerman's grounder met its untimely end. "I've always said I'm short, but I'm also a lot closer to ground balls," Rollins said with a laugh. "So I guess I was a lot closer to the ball than Derek Jeter. It adds a little more drama, and that's Philadelphia. You can't get anything in this city without a little drama." This drama was Oscar worthy. Lidge raced from the bullpen to close out a 4-2 lead and labored through a 24-pitch inning. The Nationals worked him for three hits and walk, scoring one run and loading the bases with one out for Zimmerman. Having just returned from the flu, Zimmerman had doubled earlier and worked the count to 1-1. His shot seemed destined for center field. If the ball had gotten through, the Nationals would have taken the lead with only one out. "Unbelievable," said infielder Eric Bruntlett. "To turn a double play like that, incredible." Was Bruntlett sure it would end the game? "At that point, I was not," he said with a laugh. "But up until then and right after that, yeah. There was a split second in there where I was like, 'Uh oh.'" A split second was all the time Rollins had to get to the ball, and he fielded it with just enough time to give Utley a perfect feed. Watching the completion of his effort was an extra pleasure. "That's a play I'm comfortable with," said Rollins, who was shaded to his left with Zimmerman batting. "That was a good time to come up with it clean. I still wasn't sure if we had enough time to get him at first. You just have to do your part, and you try to do as fast as you can, as clean as you can, and you hope for the best." The play clinched the NL East for Philadelphia and kept Lidge 41-for-41 in save opportunities, the Majors' only perfect closer. Fittingly, No. 41 was the toughest. "Of all the guys to come up at that spot, Zimmerman has been so clutch," Lidge said. "As soon as he hit it, I was hoping [Jimmy] was playing where I thought. He made a great play. That's what we needed and we got it. Those guys are incredibly good defensive players. I don't want anybody else behind me making that play but those two."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less