over dinner at a San Francisco restaurant on May 7 may prove to be the turning
point of Astros reliever Brad Lidge's season. He was dining with new teammate
Joe McEwing, a utilityman who had been called up from Triple A Round Rock that
morning. When talk turned to Lidge's astonishing struggles--the All-Star
righthander had been rocked for 12 runs in 16 innings, was no longer fooling
hitters with his best pitch (the slider) and had lost his closer's job--McEwing
offered this insight: Lidge was tipping his pitches when he threw from the
McEwing said he
first detected the flaw during a stint with the Mets; after scrutinizing video
of himself the next day, Lidge saw what McEwing was talking about. He was
positioning his hands at his chest before throwing a slider and at his belt
before delivering a fastball. But because Lidge was so dominant, he'd rarely
had to work from the stretch and was able to keep hitters off balance. Early
this season, however, he had begun pitching exclusively from the stretch.
around the league and most relievers were doing that, so I thought it would be
easier for me to do that," says Lidge, who saved 42 games last season.
"[But pitching] out of the full windup is how I get my rhythm and how I
stay aggressive. From going out of the stretch I also lost the ability to
Lidge returned to
the windup, and in his next four outings he allowed one base runner and no runs
in a total of four innings; last Friday he was back slamming the door on an
opponent in the ninth inning, using his filthy slider to set down the Rangers
in order and earn his first save in two weeks. Says Lidge, "I've felt like
my old self."