Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. Albert Pujols is up, with 2 men on, 2 men out, and his Cardinals are down by 3, facing elimination with a loss. On the mound is the Houston Astros closer, Brad Lidge. Who? While the average baseball fan may not know him, they may know his story, and what comes next in this epic game… Here is the story of one of the best closers of the early 2000’s, his demise, and his amazing comeback that can’t be forgotten, Brad Lidge. (Sorry about the image quality. They are from 2005, and 2008, so it could be a bit blurry)
Photo: Harry Cabluck / Associated Press
Back to Game 5. Lidge has a 97 mph fastball, and a powerful, demoralizing, wipeout slider. He throws the slider in the dirt to Albert. Strike one. He didn't know it at the time, but the next pitch that he throws will break his career… Lidge hangs a slider, and Pujols crushes it, and he literally sends it to the moon.
The story of Lidge should end here, but it doesn’t. Why? Because this homer didn’t win the series. In fact, the Astros won the series in Game 6, and went on to play the White Sox in the World Series.
In Game 2 of the World Series, Lidge is called in, during a tie game, to get the game to extra innings. With one out in the bottom of the 9th, he implodes once again, and gives up a walk-off bomb to the light hitting Scott Podsednik. In Game 4, with Houston down in the series 3-0, Lidge gets brought in, during a scoreless game to try and get the game to extras, once again. And like Game 2, he blows it. With 2 down, and a man on third, he gave up the only run of the game, on a Jermaine Dye single up the middle. The ChiSox won the championship, and Lidge was never the same again.
From 2003-2005, he went a combined 16-12, with a 3.46 ERA, 357 K’s, and 72 saves. He gave up only 19 longballs in that span. But after ‘05, he was never the same with the Stros. In 2006, and 2007 he went 6-8 with 192 K’s, but he gave up 19 homers in just 2 years. His HR/9 rate went from 0.6 in 2005, to 1.2 in 2006. He was traded to the Phillies before 2008.
Photo: Dustin Bradford / Icon Sportswire
In ‘08 he went 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA, and helped the Phillies to the postseason, where he has had his biggest struggles. Here was his chance to finally put his demons to rest (just like David Price in 2018). In Game 1 of the NLDS, Lidge was able to navigate traffic, and got the save in a 3-1 final vs. the Brewers. He got the save again in Game 2, this time a 5-2 final. Brad Lidge finished off the Brewers, as he was on the hill to cap off the clincher, in Game 4 of the DS. Next was his most hated series, the one where he gave up the homer to Pujols.
This time his foe wasn’t the Cardinals, but it was the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lidge locked down a 3-2 lead in Game 1, and did the same in Game 2. Game 4 was no different, as Lidge kept dominating, and he got the save. Though he didn’t need to save Game 5, he was on the bump, to finish off the NLCS, like in 2005. And this time he got the job done. The Philadelphia Phillies were going on to the World Series to play the Tampa Bay Rays.
In Game 1 Lidge was asked to finish off the big bats of the Rays, and just a one-run cushion. No problem. He got Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria to strike out on filthy sliders, and Carl Crawford to pop-out in foul territory. Lidge didn’t have to pitch until the Game 5 clincher, where once again, to end the series he was on the mound.
Brad Lidge’s career is remembered in 2 pictures; first photo is Pujols walking down the first-base line, and Lidge looking at an obliterated baseball in dismay. The second photo is of him on the ground with catcher Carlos Ruiz, celebrating their World Series title.
Photo: Zelevanskly / Getty Images
In sports, they say “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” Lidge learned this backward. He learned the agony of defeat first, and that made the thrill of winning the World Series even sweeter The story of Brad Lidge is a great one. He was a dominating pitcher, who lost it all in the biggest of moments, only to recapture his talent, and win it all back in that same moment.