So when asked if he thinks about his personal streak, the one that has stretched to 47 consecutive saves, Brad Lidge bristled, ever so slightly.
"I'm thinking about we've got a one-run lead and I've got three guys to get out," Lidge said. "I'm thinking about who they are and what I need to do. I'm really so focused on that, that at this point, [a streak] doesn't come into play."
Clearly, Lidge had a plan as he strode in from the bullpen to preserve the Phillies' 3-2 lead in Game 1 of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night. He and catcher Carlos Ruiz were in perfect sync, according to Lidge, as the closer threw 15 pitches -- 13 of which were sliders -- to retire a rather meaty part of the Rays order that included Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford.
The inning followed Ryan Madson's perfect eighth, a scenario that has played out in the Phillies' favor more often than not as the Madson-Lidge tandem emerged as one of the best 1-2 back-end punches in the National League. And on Wednesday, it helped preserve another seven-inning gem by Cole Hamels, who allowed two runs and struck out five to improve to 4-0 this postseason.
"Our bullpen has been great," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "They were great all year long. They were the second-best or best bullpen in the National League. So that goes a long way."
Rollins has noticed a trickle-down effect that begins with Lidge and infects the entire bullpen.
"The confidence, if you ask me, started with Lidge," Rollins said. "Everybody sees Lidge out there getting the job done, so now the guy in front of him is like, 'I better do my job, because I have got to get it to Lidge.' The guy in front of him is like, 'It's a situation where I need to get out, so we can get it to the next guy and get it to Lidge.' He's made a comeback for himself and we're reaping all the benefits."
ONE FOR THE ROAD
|Six teams have now won Game 1 in the World Series on the road since the Wild Card era began in 1995, including the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.|
|1995||Braves||Yankees||Yankees in 6|
|1999||Yankees||Braves||Yankees in 4|
|2002||Giants||Angels||Angels in 7|
|2003||Marlins||Yankees||Marlins in 6|
|2006||Cardinals||Tigers||Cardinals in 5|
Thanks to Lidge, the Phillies are now 87-0 when leading after eight innings in 2008, including an 8-0 mark in this postseason. They were one of only three teams in the Major Leagues that remained undefeated when leading after eight innings throughout the season. The others were the Yankees (77-0) and the Giants (60-0). Lidge was 41-for-41 in save chances during the season, and he's added six more in the postseason.
But just as valuable to the Phillies is Madson, who has allowed one earned run over 10 postseason innings, spanning eight games. He has allowed only two earned runs over his last 22 regular-season and postseason appearances, compiling a minuscule 0.74 ERA.
"Madson's done an incredible job," Lidge said. "Really the last two months, he's stepped up and just excelled his game. He's really gotten it to the point where he knows how to command his pitches, he knows when to throw them and he's got great stuff.
"I'm not surprised to see him do what he's doing, but it sure helps me out a lot, not having to throw the eighth inning in there. Obviously, we have J.C. [Romero] ready if need be and I've been very fortunate this year to have such great setup guys."
Lidge downplayed his excessive use of sliders in Game 1 as simply a situational necessity. He could change that plan the next time out, and without giving away any game plans, offered a very real possibility that the Rays could see more of a mix of sliders and fastballs as the Series progresses.
"It depends what the situation calls for," Lidge said. "Tomorrow, I could come out and throw a lot more fastballs. Tomorrow, they might possibly be onto my slider better. You have to mix it up. If they make adjustments, maybe we'll have to go with the fastball, whatever."
He'll worry about that later. Although the Series is long from over, Lidge preferred to revel for a bit in this victory before shifting his attention to Thursday's Game 2.
"It feels great," he said. "We can downplay it that it's only Game 1, but really, it's a pretty important game. When your ace is on the mound, you need to win. Coming in here, getting a win here, is huge. Obviously, [the Rays] played really well at home this year and winning Game 1 is a great spot to be in."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less