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Astros closer Lidge escapes Round 2 with Cards' Pujols
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published May 7, 2006
One of those moments occurred Wednesday that may mean nothing or everything: Astros closer Brad Lidge picked up a save against the Cardinals and got Albert Pujols to line out to centerfield.
It was the first time the two faced off since Pujols' winning home run in Game 5 of last season's National League Championship Series. Since that blow, some wondered how Lidge would respond to their first confrontation.
"I wasn't going to walk him," Lidge said after the game. "I was going to go after him."
With John Rodriguez on second after a leadoff double, Lidge threw a 96 mph fastball that Pujols crushed to the deepest part of Minute Maid Park. Willy Taveras ran the ball down and Rodriguez went to third.
Lidge allowed a run-scoring single but got the final outs to preserve a 5-4 victory.
"Well, he hit it better than I wanted him to," Lidge said, "but I got him out."
More pressing for the Astros, though, is Lidge's overall inconsistency.
Before Game 5 he was nearly untouchable. Entering Saturday he had a 6.19 ERA, three blown saves in 14 chances and alowed three home runs and 13 walks in 16 innings.
The problem, according to the Houston Chronicle, is the Astros' insistence the right-hander - with one of the game's best sliders - throw more fastballs, a pitch he never commanded completely.
Whatever the situation, retiring Pujols and getting another save Thursday against the Cardinals couldn't hurt.
"I feel good right now. I feel strong," Lidge said. "However they want to use me, whatever they want to do, obviously it's part of our job in the bullpen to be ready. By the end of the season, I'm sure things will even out."
THROWN OUT: It took 27 games, but the Indians finally threw out a runner trying to steal when the White Sox's Pablo Ozuna was caught at second base in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 7-1 Cleveland victory.
Catcher Victor Martinez, who erased Ozuna, had been 0-for-26 against basestealers. Backup Kelly Shoppach was 0-for-1.
"It wasn't getting into my mind," Martinez said. "I was staying positive and made sure I kept doing my work."
The Indians are on pace to allow 157 steals, six fewer than its 1976 record.
"It's a concern," said manager Eric Wedge, a former catcher. "We're doing everything we can to address it. We can only stress it to the players so much. They're the ones who have got to do it."
MESA-VIZQUEL, CONTINUED: Rockies reliever Jose Mesa said his feud with Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel is over. Still, MLB decided to make sure and fined the right-hander $1,500. Mesa had hit Vizquel in three straight at-bats. Mesa said he was mad at his former Indians teammate for saying in a book that Mesa lost the 1997 World Series for Cleveland to the Marlins. "It's over," said Mesa, whose plunking of Vizquel began a two-day beanball war last month at Coors Field. "I just have to play the game and get (Vizquel out)."
MONEY HUNGRY: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told Chicago reporters anyone who criticizes slugger Jim Thome for following the money when he left the Indians to sign with the Phillies is not being realistic.
"People who say he signed because of the money, well no (expletive)," Guillen said. "This is our job. This is how we feed our families. It's just like a lawyer or a doctor. You go where they pay you the most money."
Thome, on Monday, played in Cleveland for the first time since Sept. 29, 2002.
"One of the toughest decisions I ever had to make," the White Sox DH said of leaving, though you have to wonder how tough it really is to accept a six-year, $85-million free-agent deal.
FOR THE TEAM: The Reds continue to pile up wins without Ken Griffey; 5-3 with the centerfielder in the lineup, 15-7 entering Saturday since he hurt his knee.
The Dayton Daily News reported the team-first Griffey might not want to disrupt the Reds' streak by forcing himself into the lineup. But manager Jerry Narron said, "I don't think that's the case and I certainly hope it isn't. He's a pretty good player, you know?"
ODDS AND ENDS: Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman told Los Angeles reporters he has been playing with mononucleosis. The former Seminole High star entered Saturday batting .164 with a home run and six RBIs and could soon be on the DL. "A lot of days you feel like you have no energy," he said. "But I trained with it all offseason and in the spring. It's something you have to deal with." ... Bronson Arroyo's 5-0 start with the Reds is the team's best since Paul Wilson' s 7-0 in 2004.