IT WAS SO quiet and then it was so loud. It felt that way all over Citizens Bank Park in the moments before and after Chase Utley hit that sixth-inning, two-run homer. In the upper deck, the swanky boxes, even in the bullpen - as Phils closer Brad Lidge said, "It went from where you could hear crickets to where you couldn't hear anything."
First Utley hit his homer, then Pat Burrell clubbed another. The Phils took a 3-2 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers and then Cole Hamels pitched the seventh inning, his last inning. At which point, the bullpen finished it off.
It is the sweetest baseball sentence: The bullpen finished it off. It is so simple and yet so, so hard. The inability to write it consistently is the reason the Mets are watching this series on television. It is the reason more major league managers get fired than any other.
It is the last, underrated piece of the Phillies' Game 1 victory in the National League Championship Series - the blossoming Ryan Madson in the eighth and the perfect Brad Lidge in the ninth.
"I felt awesome," said Lidge, who has yet to blow a save all season. "There was a lot of electricity out there and the fans were amazing tonight. When they got going there was a lot of adrenalin out there. They give you a lift. They give you something extra."
Game on the line - that is Lidge's workplace. Save-or-
despair - that is Lidge's lot. You deal with it or you find another way to make a living. You withstand the pressure or you get out. Last night's ninth inning went 1-2-3 with a couple of healthy fly balls along the way, but it didn't matter.
Save-or-despair - that's it. And with each month and each round of the playoffs, the imperatives continue to grow for Lidge to remain perfect.
"It feels better and better, to be honest," Lidge said, of that growing pressure. "The possibilities of what this team can do - that's the biggest thing for me. I feel great pitching for the Phillies right now. It's really nice for me to be on a competitive team where everybody has high expectations and everybody performs up to that level."
"You always have nerves," he said. "You want nerves. You want to have the butterflies and the adrenalin. When you lose that, it's probably a bad sign.
"But you definitely get an extra kick each round - there's no question about it. It's up to us to get those butterflies to go into a beneficial stage. Sometimes they can work against you, sometimes they can work for you.
"Right now, I'm feeling great about them," Lidge said.
Before he got out there, Madson had taken the eighth inning. His emergence this season has been stunning. He has flirted with this before - the ability to be the eighth-inning guy in a one-run game; the talent to grab one of the game's biggest moments and make it his - but it has never happened until this year and never in this kind of a spot.
"It feels great," he said. "All you can ask for is the opportunity. All you can do is go out there and hopefully things go your way. You prepare yourself for a long time and just to get the opportunity is unbelievable."
"Not nervous - just anxious to go out and do it," Madson said. "It's uncharted territory. You don't know. So you just try to go back to what you do know and just trust it. Trust it."
After Madson struck out Andre Ethier to lead off the eighth, Manny Ramirez was next - he of the first-inning RBI double that probably would have traveled 425 feet had it not crashed into the fence in deepest centerfield, and the fifth-inning single to center. Everybody knew the deal.
It was very, very unusual, though, to have manager Charlie Manuel make the mound visit before Ramirez stepped into the box. Pitching coach Rich Dubee, maybe. But this was different - different times, different stakes - and it was Manuel who wanted to deliver the message personally.
"That was a first," Madson said. "He's usually taking the ball from me.
"What he said was, don't throw him anything right over the middle of the plate. He didn't say to pitch around him, just don't throw anything right over the middle. It was, basically, just don't give him any cookies. Mostly it was just a calm-down thing . . . calm me down, calm the situation."
On the first pitch, catcher Carlos Ruiz limbo-ed way, way low into his stance in the hope that his target would be way, way low and that Madson would throw the pitch way, way low. He pretty much did, too - but Manny being Manny, he went down and got it and ripped it, right at Phils third baseman Pedro Feliz.
Two outs. Russell Martin blasted a ground ball past Feliz for a single that could have been scored an error, and then James Loney grounded to second to end the inning. All of which is a lot of play-by-play but, in the end, it is what mattered.
This bullpen, the best in the National League this season, had now made the bridge to Lidge. That is how Game 1 ended. The bullpen finished it off.
And what was it that Madson said on Wednesday afternoon before the Phillies' final pre-
series work? This: "It's getting to the time where you start making history." *
Send e-mail to
email@example.com, or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at
For recent columns go to