"It almost seems like, at times, I can throw my slider and they'll continue to have the fastball approach," Lidge said. "In the past, it felt like guys were trying to hit bombs off me. Obviously, they're still trying to do that late in the game, but it seems like they're quickening their approach, trying to lay off the slider in the dirt and just trying to hit more singles and get on base. At times, I feel like this year there have been some really good battles with hitters."
Lidge recalled Mark Loretta's at-bat against him during one of the games in San Diego recently. Loretta worked Lidge to a full count and flipped a slider to shallow right field.
"In the past, guys might be wailing away expecting a fastball, but now that they know I throw so many sliders, it's different," Lidge said. "This is a game where you have to make continual adjustments and get better all the time. Otherwise, you're going to be struggling."
Manager Phil Garner doesn't think Lidge's control has been as good this year as last, and that's probably due in part to the erratic workload. Save opportunities haven't been quite as plentiful as last year, especially early in the season, when the Astros were losing twice as much as they were winning.
"He's missing with his fastball, and he's relying more on his slider," Garner said. "Last year, when we got on a roll the last two months of the season, he was pitching on a consistent basis. It was a good, consistent run. Maybe that's hurt him a little bit.
"But when a guy can throw 97 miles an hour like he was last year and he's throwing it right to the corners, and he's got a power slider, that's going to hurt you. You can't hit that guy. That's why he was lights out last year. His control has not been there this year."
Garner was quick to point out that Lidge's upside far outweighs any criticisms he may have for the All-Star closer.
"He's still very good," Garner said. "He's still better than good. But in comparison to last year, that's what I've seen since the end of last season."
Katrina scare: Hitting coach Gary Gaetti's thoughts were on issues more important than baseball Sunday morning. His wife, Donna, and daughter, Gigi, are at the family's home in Covington, La., about 40 miles north of New Orleans. With Hurricane Katrina making its way toward that area, Gaetti was concerned about the welfare of his family.
As of Sunday morning, Donna and Gigi Gaetti had no concrete plans to evacuate their home.
"Donna's niece lives in Jackson [Miss.], and they were going to go there yesterday," Gaetti said. "But the people she was going to caravan with up there decided to stay and ride it out, so she's left hanging. She doesn't want to get on the road by herself. She's going to try to improvise, I guess."
Russ Springer is also from Louisiana, but his hometown of Pollack is about four hours north of New Orleans, and presumably safe from Katrina.
"They're sending people up there to Alexandria, near us," Springer said of the New Orleans residents being evacuated.
Anniversary celebration: The Dodgers concluded their season-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1955 World Series championship with a pregame ceremony honoring several members of that club.
Duke Snider, Tommy Lasorda and company received rousing ovations, but the loudest arrived when Sandy Koufax was introduced. Koufax, considered by many to be the greatest left-hander of all time, pitched for the Dodgers from 1955-66.
Koufax's place in history was not lost among select Astros pitchers. Lidge, a baseball history buff, was hoping to meet the Hall of Famer during the Astros' weekend stay in Los Angeles.
Lidge has met several legendary pitchers during his young career, and he still marvels that he's in a position to be rubbing shoulders with some of the best who ever pitched.
"It's really amazing," he said. "If first struck me as odd when I met Nolan Ryan in Double-A [in Round Rock, where Ryan's family owns the Express]". He's one of the best pitchers ever and I remember meeting him and saying, 'Wow, this is pretty amazing that I was able to meet him and talk to him.'
"And pitching on the same team as Roger [Clemens] will be something I can tell my grandkids about."
Slow down: Lance Berkman looks like he may be taking the "run through the base" fundamental a little too far when he's legging out a groundball. Instead of stopping a few steps beyond the bag, Berkman sometimes looks like he's going to run a wind sprint all the way down the right-field line.
No, Berkman is not trying to squeeze in a little extra exercise. It's just another side effect from his offseason knee surgery.
"Slowing down is the hardest part, absolutely," he said. "It puts the most pressure on it, when I have to stop suddenly. That's why I keep trucking."
Odds and ends: The Dodgers wore replica uniforms from the 1955 season during Sunday's game. The front of their jerseys read, "Brooklyn". ... Eric Bruntlett received a rare start Sunday, playing shortstop. "He is a shortstop, but all of the positions are his best positions, and I don't say that lightly," Garner said of the versatile infielder/outfielder. "He's played great at all of them." ... Garner flip-flopped his two sluggers for the series finale in Los Angeles, batting Morgan Ensberg third and Berkman fourth. "Let's do something different today," Garner said.
Coming up: The Astros will enjoy a day off Monday before resuming play on Tuesday. They open a six-game homestand with at 7:05 p.m. contest with the Reds. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (8-6, 6.23 ERA) will face left-hander Brandon Claussen (9-8, 4.29 ERA).