- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2005


When he brought Bobby Jenks into Game1 of the World Series, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen might have started a trend for managers signaling what pitcher they want to come in from the bullpen.

Typically, managers signal with a raise of the hand or tap of the arm for which pitcher — lefty or righty — they want. Guillen took it one step further when he held out his arms to indicate he wanted the portly Jenks.

“I’ve got two righties,” Guillen said. “I’ve got a little one, and I don’t want to make the mistake I made last year, when I called in the lefty to bring in the righty. I want them to know the guy I want now. So that’s my trademark. I don’t want to embarrass the kid, but I want the big boy.”

Think about the possibilities. If Nationals manager Frank Robinson wanted to call in 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch, maybe he would bring a stepladder out to the mound and stand on it with his arm raised high.

If Astros manager Phil Garner wants to bring in closer Brad Lidge, following the Guillen trademark, he could walk out to the mound, sit down on the rubber, pour gasoline all over himself and set himself on fire.

That way, there would be no doubt.

“Lights Out” Lidge has become “Gas Can” Brad, a combustible closer who if he makes an appearance tonight in Game3 in Houston may make Astros fans cover their eyes instead of cheer.

But this Houston team wouldn’t be here in the World Series without Lidge, who had 42 saves and a 2.29 ERA this year in 70 appearances. He was fourth on the team in strikeouts with 103 despite pitching just 702/3 innings. Last year in 942/3 innings, Lidge struck out a record 157 hitters for a reliever.

Nearly every time Lidge pitched, he seemed unhittable.

That’s why what has happened to him in his last two postseason appearances should be so worrisome for Houston, because it has not been a slow breakdown — a thousand cuts by a single here, a double there, a walk here — but a complete reversal of fortune, surrendering home runs like a batting practice pitcher in the home run contest at the All-Star Game.

The first one was against Albert Pujols in the National League Championship Series, the three-run shot in Game5 that kept the Cardinals alive in the series before they lost to Houston in Game6.

OK, a home run by Pujols is certainly understandable. Lidge wasn’t the first one to give it up to the league’s best hitter. But the next time we saw Lidge in the postseason was Sunday night in Chicago, when he gave up the ninth-inning, game-winning homer to Scott Podsednik in the White Sox’s 7-6 victory, putting Chicago on top 2-0 in the Series.

Hey, it happens, right? Lidge wasn’t the first one to give it up to Podsednik … oh, wait a minute, he was, at least with a game on the line this year. Podsednik had 507 at-bats in the regular season without hitting a home run, and his previous postseason homer was in a 14-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox in Division Series play.

To Lidge’s credit, he has been stand-up after both home runs, facing reporters and answering questions.

“I’m not going to change my approach,” he said. “I’ve had success this year, a good year, and I’m going to stick with my guns. I’m frustrated by it, of course, but I’m not changing a darn thing.”

And he has been backed by his manager. “He’s my closer,” Garner said. “He’s our go-to guy. He’s going to be fine. He’ll do just fine.”

Very noble, but another home run and Lidge and Garner will be dangerously close to Kevin Bacon in “Animal House” declaring to the rioting crowd on the street at the end of the film, “Stay calm. All is well.”

All is not well.

Albert Pujols was a mistake. Scott Podsednik is a problem. One more like that, and we are talking about Brad Lidge disease. “Gas Can” Brad may be joining “Wild Thing” Mitch Williams at the bowling alley.

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