Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Brad Lidge Needs A Hug

Houston Astros relief pitcher Brad Lidge had a bad day today.

No, check that. He had a HORRIBLE day.

Lidge entered tonight's game against the Nationals in the 8th inning, with a runner on third and the score tied 1-1. He walked the first batter, gave up an RBI single, allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, gave up and RBI double, gave up another RBI single, then was yanked, all without recording an out. Because the tie breaking run was charged to Dan Wheeler, Lidge was not charged with the loss, or given a blown save.

Normally, you can chalk up a performance like that to a bad bowl of Cheerios, or pitching out of the wrong side of your brain. That is of course, if it wasn't for Albert Pujols.

It's hard to believe one swing of the bat could have such an impact on a pitcher's career, but it seems Albert Pujols' "Shot Heard Round The World" in last year's National League Championship Series has reduced Lidge to a shell of his former self.

Let's look at the facts. Prior to Pujols Game 5 winning walk-off home run, Lidge was a perfect three-for-three in posteason save chances. He had just completed a 2005 season in which he was nearly unhittable, with 103 strike outs in 71.2 innings, a 2.29 earned run average, 42 saves, and just 4 blown saves. That is lights out.

After Pujols home run? Not so good. In the World Series, Lidge had ZERO saves, a 4.91 ERA, and was responsible for two of the Astros' losses in the White Sox sweep.

This season, Lidge does have 12 saves, but he has already blown 3 saves (he blew just 4 in '05 and 4 in '04), he already has 2 losses, and sports a 6.53 ERA. Those aren't the numbers of a dominant closer.

Astros manager Phil Garner may need to hire a shaman, or a priest to exorcise the demons that now reside deep within Lidge's soul. Then again, Lidge may just need a hug.

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