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Astros' bullpen performs admirably

Astros' bullpen performs admirably

HOUSTON -- Any question about how Brad Lidge and the other members of Houston's bullpen would bounce back from Sunday's meltdown in Chicago were answered definitively Tuesday night during Game 3 of the 101st World Series.

"You've got to like what we did," Lidge said after the bullpen recorded seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits in relief of starter Roy Oswalt.

The White Sox finally broke through against the seventh Houston pitcher, starter Ezequiel Astacio, but the five relievers, including three who were hit hard in Chicago on Sunday, put up zeroes.

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"The guys in the bullpen believe in each other, we never had a doubt we'd bounce back," said Lidge, who gave up the walk-off home run to Scott Podsednik in Game 2 but retired all four batters he faced Tuesday with three strikeouts. "Bad things happen in the course of the series or World Series or whatever, but it doesn't mean we hang our heads. With this bullpen, I'll take our chances nine times out of 10."

Russ Springer came on with one on and nobody out in the seventh and retired the side.

Springer was followed by right-hander Dan Wheeler. Wheeler was hit hard in Game 2 but was nails in this one, limiting the Sox to one hit in 1 1/3 innings.

Left-hander Mike Gallo came on to retire A.J. Pierzynski in the ninth with a runner at second base.

"We kept putting up zeroes, it was a battle, just seems like everything is going their way right now, so the tide's got to turn," Gallo said. "The thing about being a relief pitcher, you have to have a short-term memory. Tomorrow's a new day.

"It was huge to show everybody our bullpen is still here and still one of the best. We've got another game tomorrow and our bullpen is going to come back strong again tomorrow."

Lidge followed Gallo. The right-hander was back on his game and said the memory of Sunday's disappointing loss never entered his mind.

"There just can't be [any lingering thoughts], though saying there can't be and actually having it out of your head are two different things. But for me, really, coming back at home when that music comes on, I'm so focused and locked in on the hitter, that's kind of the furthest thing from your mind is thinking about the past," Lidge said.

Chad Qualls, who gave up the grand slam to Paul Konerko on Sunday, bounced back with his best outing of the season. The right-hander went three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.

"I was pretty much prepared right out of the gate," Qualls said. "I was thinking of that 18-inning game [in the NLDS] when Wheeler went three innings. I figured tonight may be my turn, and I was right."

Unfortunately for the Astros, their offense kept coming up zero as well. Manager Phil Garner used all of the arms in his bullpen before turning to Astacio.

Now, the Astros are facing elimination with very real concerns as to who will and will not be available out of the 'pen for a must-win Game 4.

"We'll see how it feels tomorrow, but I'll get my arm ready and see how it heals and everything else," Qualls said. "If they need me, I'll be out there."

Gallo agreed.

"It's do-or-die time now," Gallo said. "You forget about aches and pains this time of year."

Lidge said he would be ready to pitch in as many innings as required.

"No one is hurt, everyone feels healthy and you get so much adrenalin in the World Series, we're going to be fine no matter what they ask us to do," Lidge said. "We can bounce back. It is tough but it can be done.

"The Red Sox proved last year it can be done. We're going to give everything we have, and that's got to be enough. We're going to find a way to come back. Our backs are to the wall, but that's the way our team's been all year. If we had a lead right now I don't know if we'd know what to do with it, so we might as well be down 0-3."

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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