The latest chapter was unfolding on Sunday night, with Lidge on the mound making tough pitches while the crowd roared, anticipating the Phillies completing an improbable comeback victory and jumping back into the World Series.
"I felt good," Lidge said. "I felt like it would be one of those innings that would be a good quick inning. I made some good pitches to Damon. Then very quickly he was on third base. It turned pretty quick."
Game 4: Yankees 7, Phillies 4 | Box Score | Series Home
Johnny Damon emerged from a classic nine-pitch confrontation with Lidge by poking a two-out single in the top of the ninth and then quickly stole second and third.
On the same play.
Whoever was responsible -- Ruiz probably also could have just held the ball, since he had little chance to get Damon at second -- the unusual play turned out to be the spark that led to a Lidge meltdown in their 7-4 Game 4 loss. He had so many of them in the regular season, but so far he was working on one month that could make everyone forget the previous six.
Lidge had been perfect in three save opportunities and he had a victory. He had retired 11-of-15 batters when he took the mound on Sunday night, not long after Pedro Feliz's homer against Joba Chamberlain had tied the game, 4-4. Lidge got Hideki Matsui on a popup and he struck out Derek Jeter.
He fouled off three consecutive nasty sliders. Lidge then missed with two fastballs. Then he threw two more fastballs, which Damon fouled off. Several of those pitches were the kind that should have been good enough to put away a big-league hitter. But Damon wouldn't go away.
"It's frustrating," Lidge said. "Obviously, the whole inning is frustrating. He had a great at-bat. Sometimes hitters do that stuff. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the job done after that. It's frustrating when you make some good pitches and you hope to get the result you want, but they did a good job."
Damon's single to left seemed innocent enough, but the urgency of the inning immediately was turned up when Damon broke for second on the first pitch. Feliz, the third baseman, was playing in the shortstop position for a shift on Mark Teixeira, with Rollins on the other side of the bag. Rollins, the captain of the infield, said that when he called for Feliz to cover the bag, he should have told Lidge that he needs to break to third.
"I take responsibility for it," Rollins said. "It's my job to let him know he's got to go to third. It's my job. I just didn't do it that time."
Technically, Damon was in scoring position at second, so there should have been no difference with him being at third. Was Lidge rattled by the startling play?
"No," he said.
Did having a runner at third prevent Lidge from throwing sliders, which may have been in the dirt?
"No," he said.
Whatever the explanation, Lidge lost it. All that nasty stuff he had for the first three batters of the inning was gone. He immediately plunked Teixeira on the elbow. Alex Rodriguez then came to the plate. Second base was open -- with Mariano Rivera looming in the bullpen, it didn't really matter if the Yankees scored one or two or three runs -- so Lidge could have pitched around Rodriguez. He wanted to pitch him inside. His second fastball was inside, but not far enough. Rodriguez smoked it into the left-field corner for a two-run double.
"I hadn't seen him do a whole lot of that on (inside) fastballs in this series, but he got to that one," Lidge said. "You've got to tip your hat. He made an adjustment. I wish I would have gone to a slider earlier, but he did a good job. ... I think we would have gone to sliders real soon."
That is what they call regret, which is what Lidge is likely to live with over a long winter. Sure, the Phillies are still alive in the series, and they have their ace, Cliff Lee, going on Game 5 on Monday, but their chances are slim. If Lidge had just gotten Damon, or made some better pitches to Teixeira and Rodriguez, the Phillies would have had a wave of momentum and a raucous crowd on their side as they went after the Yankees' soft middle relief. A series-evening victory was within their grasp.
Instead, there was Lidge, standing in front of reporters in a deathly quiet clubhouse, just as he had all too many times this season, talking about what had gone wrong, begging for a chance to make amends.
"Hopefully," he said, "I'll get a chance to go back out there, and get a save or a win."