TAMPA, Fla. - Two more, and Phillies closer Brad Lidge would join the Yankees' Mariano Rivera in World Series lore.
Rivera is the only pitcher in history to get the final out in three World Series. Nine other pitchers, including Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Rollie Fingers, have done it twice.
Rivera's accomplishment, with the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000, gives him a unique perspective on what awaits Lidge and the Phillies this season as they attempt to repeat as World Series champions. The 1998-2000 Yankees are the last club to do that.
After getting the most important out of the season, Lidge will enter a whole new phase of his career this season. Nothing will be the same for him, Rivera said.
"It makes it harder, because now you've set a high standard," Rivera said during a spring-training conversation. "Everybody expects you to do that all the time. That's what they pay you for.
"It made me hungrier. It made me want to do it again."
Rivera finished the 1998 World Series by getting pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney to ground out.
"It was a very special moment for me that I will always remember," Rivera said.
Rivera set up John Wetteland when the Yankees won the World Series in 1996. Rivera became the closer the following season and had a crushing blown save in the fourth game of a division series with Cleveland. The Indians eliminated the powerful Yankees in five games.
The blown save against Cleveland hung over Rivera throughout the 1998 season. The cloud was lifted only when he finished a strong postseason performance by putting away San Diego.
"That was a big steppingstone moment for Mariano," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who caught Rivera for the final out of the 1998 World Series. "It was big because of what he went through in '97."
Rivera's career took off after 1998. In the next 10 years, he made the AL all-star team eight times, ranked among the league's top five for saves seven times, and twice had 50-plus saves.
The World Series accelerated Rivera's growth, Girardi said.
"There is an energy in that moment that just transcends everything," Girardi said. "And it's not just for the pitcher. It's for the whole club.
"That last out is a moment you dream about as a kid, but you don't know what it's like until you go through it. When you do, you want to do it again."
Like Rivera, Lidge endured postseason disappointment before tasting World Series success.
With Houston in 2005, Lidge blew a save in the fifth game of the National League Championship Series vs. St. Louis and had two losses as the Chicago White Sox swept the Astros in the World Series.
Lidge had his freedom moment when he struck out pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to close out Tampa Bay.
"That feeling you have at that moment is indescribable," Girardi said. "You can't wait to get back to that level. Brad Lidge was great for them last year."
Rivera is aware of what Lidge accomplished: 41 consecutive converted saves in the regular season and seven in the postseason. Lidge helped the Phillies go 79-0 when leading after eight innings in the regular season and 10-0 in the postseason.
Rivera grinned and shook his head when he heard the numbers. The thought of doing that again is mind-boggling, Rivera said. Eventually, Lidge will have a blown save.
"You've got to be really good to do that," Rivera said of Lidge's spotless performance. "But you've got to be lucky, too. You've got to have perfect defense played behind you. Everything has to go right, and that's hard to make happen."
Rivera is also the only player to have thrown the final pitch in four World Series. After the three-year run of success, he blew a lead in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona. Tony Womack tied the game at 2-2 with a double, and Luis Gonzalez beat Rivera with a soft single over a drawn-in infield.
"It was over as soon as I walked out of there," Rivera said. "It's done. Can't do anything about it now.
"Getting three [World Series] in a row was hard, very hard. But you can't do that until you get the first one."
Brad Lidge is there, pushing for No.2.