The Washington Times - April 17, 2012, 11:44PM

Jayson Werth and Brad Lidge spent three years on the same roster in Philadelphia and whether from the outfield or the dugout, Werth watched Lidge lock down 112 saves for the Phillies. They weren’t all pretty.

So when Lidge entered the Nationals’ 1-0 victory over the Astros in the ninth inning Tuesday night, looking for his second save of the season and trying for the second time to lock down a superb Gio Gonzalez start, Werth knew what to expect.

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And when Lidge gave up a leadoff double and then walked the next batter?

“I was calm and collected out there,” Werth said. “I knew he had it all the way. That’s what I told him when we went through the (handshake) line. I said, ‘Never a doubt.’ Doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there. The result is the important thing and I’ve got all the confidence in the world in the guy.”

The start of the 2012 season for Lidge hasn’t been the smoothest one. His stuff isn’t yet where he wants it to be. Tuesday night, he felt his slider was up. Catcher Jesus Flores said he was just leaving balls out over the plate, trying to be too perfect. With the Nationals counting on Lidge and Henry Rodriguez to fill the void left by the injury to closer Drew Storen, at least in the season’s first half, no one is more aware than Lidge that having his best stuff will be imperative.

But so, too, will be having his head. The Nationals jumped at the late opportunity this offseason to add Lidge to their bullpen, his experience alone making him an attractive piece. He showed it Tuesday night.

“I think you’re going to have times when things are going nice and easy,” Lidge said. “But when they’re not going easy you’ve got to battle through and you have to make sure that run doesn’t score, regardless if your pitches are there or not. That’s kind of the way I look at it right now is I feel good about getting the result and hopefully it’ll get a little bit easier.”

Lidge didn’t panic when the first two runners reached on him, and the tying run stood on second base. He got ahead of Carlos Lee 0-2 and induced a fly out to center field. He fell behind 3-0 to Chris Johnson, and came back with a called strike and another fly out, albeit a well-struck one, to center field. Sean Burnett began to get loose in the Nationals’ bullpen. Lidge found himself in a 2-2 count with Travis Buck and delivered a slider that Buck hammered into the ground toward first base to end it.

It would have probably been easy to panic. But Lidge didn’t.

“Trust your stuff,” he said. “Trust your stuff and believe in what you’ve got. I’ve done it my whole career and in situations like that where you just have to trust, almost all the time it ends up working. Honestly, confidence and believing in yourself out there when you’re throwing an inning like that, or any save situation, it’s just as important as your stuff and location. Not thrilled to be in that situation but glad it worked out.”

“That’s experience,” said manager Davey Johnson. “I was probably closer to panicking (than he was).”

The situation certainly could’ve been a little less intense had the Nationals’ offense been able to scratch across more than just the one run against Wandy Rodriguez. But there was nothing Lidge could do about that.

“I’m sure I have a lot of people a heart attack today,” Lidge admitted. “(Working in a one-run game), I really think sometimes it can add pressure but most of the time that’s a good thing. Sometimes if it’s a kind of expanded lead you might not do the same things you would. You might not be at your best but if it’s a one-run lead you know you have to be at your best so more pressure but also a little more excitement and a lot of times that brings out the best.”

As the ground ball bounced toward first baseman Adam LaRoche and he made his way toward the bag for the final out, Lidge pounded his fist into his glove triumphantly. Gonzalez smacked his hand on the railing of the Nationals’ dugout before hopping over and getting a congratulatory head pat from Wilson Ramos. His first win as a National was secure and he finally let his otherwise ever-present smile return.

“(I was) just trying to be cool, calm and collected,” Gonzalez said. “Knowing he was going to shut it down.”