When the Philadelphia Phillies acquired both Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin, each of the two players had numerous question marks about their productivity.
Lidge, traded from the Houston Astros, had his shares of struggles since the 2005 postseason, when he gave up a walk-off home runs to Albert Pujols in the NLCS and Scott Podsednik in the World Series.
He had gone in and out of the closer's role and struggled in comparisons to his previous campaigns.
Though. he had improved in 2007, compared to 2006 and returned to the closer's role later that year, there were still numerous questions about his ability to close in the majors.
Meanwhile, Durbin began the year as a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and struggled his way into the bullpen, where he did not fare much better.
The journeyman right-hander posted a 97 ERA+ and a 1.43 WHIP— nothing to get very excited about.
When the Phillies signed him to a one-year deal, the consensus was that he would not be much of an impact player for the Phillies, and would probably either be a spot starter or have a mop-up role in the bullpen.
Despite their previous histories, Lidge, the closer, and Durbin, his primary set-up man, have become the two most important pitchers in the Phillies' surprisingly stable bullpen this season.
Their success continued in tonight's 2-1 victories over the Cardinals.
After Joe Blanton held the Cardinals to one run over seven innings and J.C. Romero got one out, allowing a single to the game-tying run in the process, Durbin was called on to get the Phillies out of the eighth inning.
The Phillies' reliever promptly caused Joe Mather to ground into a double play on the fifth pitch of the at-bat to get the Phillies out of the inning.
During the bottom of the ninth inning, after the Phillies failed to score in the top of the inning, Lidge was called on to protect their one-run lead for the victory.
The first batter he faced was none other than Pujols, who Lidge, in his 2008 form, caused to ground out to the shortstop for the first out.
Up next was Ryan Ludwick, who had hit three home runs in his previous seven at-bats in the series.
Lidge struck the Cardinals' All-Star outfielder out swinging on a slider.
After seemingly having the game in hand, Lidge showed some loss of control, walking Troy Glaus and allowing his pinch runner, Brendan Ryan, to advance to second on a wild pitch.
He buckled down and struck out pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel swinging on a slider.
The success of these two pitchers as well as the Phillies' bullpen (1st in the NL in reliever win expectation) has put the Phillies (60-50) in first place in the NL East.
The success of each of these pitchers lies in a large amount of areas.
Lidge's change in comparison to his past seasons of non-success lies in his ability to keep the ball down.
His 1.52 groundball-fly ball ratio is the highest of his career.
Also, of his fly balls, nearly half have been in the infield and only one has gone out of the park.
His FIP is 2.21, down around where it was during his successful years of 2004 and 2005.
In save situations, he has been his best, converting all 27 of his saves with an ERA of just 1.00.
On the other end of the spectrum, Durbin's groundball-fly ball ratio is also at a high point for his career at 1.17.
He, as well, has allowed only around half of his fly balls to go past the infield.
His FIP is also at a career-low of 3.01.