No mistake was made, the power closer said. Nothing hung achingly over the plate; it was a fastball that landed exactly where Houston Astros reliever Brad Lidge wanted to throw it. Because this was not a slugger named Albert Pujols, but rather a pesky pest named Scott Podsednik, Lidge had no fear that a fastball over the plate, no matter how straight, could or would be sent deep to center field, clearing the wall for a game-winning home run in the Chicago White Sox' 7-6 win over the Astros on Sunday night in Game 2 of the World Series.
Lidge felt disappointment after Pujols's three-run home run in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series gave the St. Louis Cardinals the win. Sunday night, the feeling was one of shock.
"I was really surprised because it was Podsednik," Lidge said. "You don't expect him to do that. I wanted to throw him a strike. I was going to stay aggressive and come right after him."
That was a dramatically different approach than the one he took with Pujols. In that game, Houston Manager Phil Garner told Lidge not to give Pujols anything to hit. But Lidge faltered and hung a slider, and Pujols sent it over the left field wall. Here Lidge, after falling behind to Podsednik 2-1, wanted to throw a strike. The last thing he wanted was the fleet left fielder on base. Podsednik could steal a base and then the winning run would be standing on second and that would change Lidge's approach to other hitters. No, Podsednik was not to reach base on a walk at any cost.
"I was just trying to get on base," Podsednik said.
So Lidge cocked his arm, reared back and threw his fastball, which often reaches the mid-90s, right over the plate. Unlike his hooking slider, Lidge's fastball does nothing more than move at a rapid pace. If a hitter is waiting for it, then it's just a matter of timing his swing to hit it.
"My fastball has always been straight my whole career," Lidge said. "I wish I had movement on a night like this."
"It was a good pitch to hit," Podsednik said, "and I was able to drive it out."
The ball traveled high into the misty air and carried over the fence. Lidge at first thought it might be caught by center fielder Willy Taveras. But the ball did not stop traveling.
"I didn't think he got it as good because he's not a home run hitter," said Lidge of Podsednik, who hit no home runs in 507 regular season at bats.
Sometimes there is really no believable explanation as to why a pitcher who had dominated so much in the postseason -- Lidge had pitched 152/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the playoffs after Game 3 of the NLCS -- has now suddenly become so hittable. Lidge has allowed game-winning home runs to two of the past three batters he's faced and has allowed a run in three of his past four appearances.
Houston catcher Brad Ausmus said he sees no difference in Lidge. The closer said he feels nothing is wrong mechanically. "Sometimes you can throw your pitch 100 percent where you wanted to throw it but they hit it," Lidge said. "But I'm not going to change anything. I'm going to stay aggressive."
Lidge did not act much differently on Sunday than he had after losing Game 5 of the NLCS. Both times he stood in front of his locker and answered every question. And neither time did he snap at a reporter, even when asked whether the memory of Pujols's home run flitted across his mind when he took the mound on Sunday.
"I know a lot of people want to think it did," Lidge said, "but it just didn't."
There were no regrets here, only a fastball that landed over the center field wall.