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Lidge owning the end-game

HOUSTON -- October is a time for many things. But more than anything else these days, it is closer time. And Brad Lidge proved Sunday he is one of the great and most durable closers of his time.

The 27-year-old Astros closer had thrown 42 pitches in a two-inning save the day before -- the most in any save in his career. But Sunday, in the eighth inning, the bullpen gates opened -- and out came Lidge one more time for yet another two-inning save.

"This time of year, you don't win without a dominating closer," said his teammate, Craig Biggio, after Lidge had navigated through the teeth of the St. Louis order to save the Astros' 6-5 win in Game 4 of the NLCS. "Brad Lidge threw 42 pitches last night in two innings. And today, he threw 25 pitches in two innings.

"That's a lot to ask of somebody. But it's a nice feeling to know you've got a guy like that, who when he comes in, 99 percent of the time, it's over."

What Lidge did in Games 3 and 4, though, is something even Mariano Rivera has never done -- knock off two saves of at least six outs each on back-to-back days.

Dennis Eckersley never did it. Rollie Fingers never did it. Only two closers since the invention of the modern save rule ever did it.

One, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Goose Gossage, who did it twice in 1981. The other was Byung-Hyun Kim, who did it once in 2001 (in the NLCS).

We don't know how many pitches those guys threw. But we know Lidge had never thrown 42 pitches one day, then come back to pitch the next day, at any time in his career. And we know that this year, none of the 19 pitchers who threw 40-plus pitches in a save came back to pitch the next day.

But Lidge did, throwing two hitless innings and, after a four-pitch walk to Larry Walker in the ninth, retiring Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen to end the game.

His final pitch was a 96-mph fastball that went whooshing by Rolen for strike three. So if this man was running on fumes, there might be closers all across America lining up to find out where they can purchase those fumes.

"With guys like this," said his catcher, Brad Ausmus, "you've got 43,000 people screaming down your neck and that adrenaline is going pretty good. It's funny how that can make up for any soreness you had."

Lidge's most harrowing moment came on a 1-and-2 slider to Pujols, who jumped out in front of it and was only able to muscle it toward left with one hand. Still, he backed left fielder Jason Lane all the way to the wall, as those 43,000 people forgot to breathe for a few seconds there.

"I've never seen a hitter as strong as he is," Lidge said of Pujols. "That last pitch, he actually hit with one hand. It was kind of in the dirt. And he pushed it back to the warning track."

"I know I was giving that one the old body language," said Lance Berkman.

But it turned into an out. And a save. And two more innings on the closer's odometer. But Lidge promised he "should be fine" on Monday. And when manager Phil Garner was asked what to expect from his closer for Game 5, he chuckled: "Oh, a couple of innings. (Laugh.) He'd better get his sleep."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.