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A Win for the Weary

The second pitch Wilson Valdez threw to the reigning National League MVP was a 90 m.p.h. fastball popped foul. Third baseman Carlos Ruiz chased the ball until he flipped over the rolled-up tarp.

The second pitch Wilson Valdez threw to the reigning National League MVP was a 90 m.p.h. fastball popped foul. Third baseman Carlos Ruiz chased the ball until he flipped over the rolled-up tarp.

Oh, this was just the beginning. Six hours and 11 minutes after it began, Raul Ibanez hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Jimmy Rollins. It was over at 1:19 a.m. Thursday morning.

Phillies 5, Reds 4 (19 innings).

It was the longest Phillies game since July 7, 1993, the game ended by a pitcher - Mitch Williams - at the plate. This was the opposite. They will remember this game for endurance, futile hitting, but mostly Valdez's heroics on the mound.

At some point, the Phillies decided winning this game was less important than to risk injuring one of the three aces not named Halladay who had yet to pitch. So Danys Baez was asked to throw until his arm fell off. He did this quite well.

And then when that wasn't enough, the Phillies turned to Valdez, their wonky second baseman, to pitch the 19th. He retired the side on three fly balls, allowing only Scott Rolen to reach on a hit by pitch. He jogged off the mound before the final out was caught with a huge smirk on his face and was mobbed by his teammates in the dugout.

Valdez was the first position player to win a game as a pitcher since Brent Mayne did it for Colorado in 2000.

This a game that featured both teams hitting dramatic home runs in the 10th inning; a half inning in which the Phillies walked three, hit one and still did not allow a Cincinnati run to score; and a one-out, bases-loaded scenario in the ninth inning that resulted in no Phillies runs.

There were 21/3 innings of spotless relief from David Herndon, a pitcher who will likely be optioned to triple A on Thursday; an at-bat in the 16th inning by Baez with fans chanting "Danys! Danys!"; and Roy Halladay blowing a three-run lead against a team he no-hit seven months ago.

All that was missing was Roy Oswalt playing left field.

Baez's performance was admirable. The 33-year-old Cuban threw 73 pitches, more in a game than he has in nine years. He allowed two base runners in five innings.

Ryan Howard saved everyone from going home in the ninth with a solo home run hit so far he stood to admire it for a few seconds. He mashed the second pitch thrown by Reds closer Francisco Cordero to tie a game that felt doomed.

That's because a half inning earlier, Antonio Bastardo allowed a second-pitch home run to Jay Bruce. A fan threw the ball back onto the field, where it landed a few feet away from Bastardo. He did not notice until the umpire pointed. Bastardo bent over in disgust, underhanded it to the Phillies dugout, and that was that.

It was deflating because the Phillies should have won it in the ninth inning when they loaded the bases with a single and two intentional walks.

With Ben Francisco, who had homered earlier, due up, Charlie Manuel opted for his promising rookie, Domonic Brown. His bat went further (fifth row behind the Phillies dugout) than the ball (slightly foul up the third-base line and into the catcher's mitt).

Placido Polanco still had a chance to win it, and he hit a grounder so hard that it forced shortstop Edgar Renteria backward. But he still had plenty of time to toss it to second for the final out.

Jay Bruce plays right field for the Reds and he'd look very good manning a corner position in Philadelphia and batting in those crucial spots. He has nine RBIs in the first three games of this series and delivered a crushing two-out, two-run single off Halladay and three innings later hit the home run off Bastardo.

Bastardo's blemish ruined what had been stellar relief pitching. Ryan Madson, immediately afforded a chance to atone for Tuesday, preserved a tie game in the ninth. He mowed down the heart of the Reds' lineup, inducing fly balls from Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. Then he struck out Scott Rolen on the devastating change-up.

The first seven innings were more reminiscent of the first time Halladay faced Cincinnati last season, months before the no-hitter. That June day, the Phillies staked Halladay to a three-run lead only for him to surrender it. And just like Wednesday, it was Bruce who took the fateful swing. The difference this time was it only tied the game.

Granted, the Phillies had plenty of failed opportunities to extend a three-run lead for Halladay before the game turned bizarre, the most egregious coming in the sixth inning. Raul Ibanez demolished a Wood pitch off the center field wall for a leadoff triple. He was stranded there.

And after that, it just kept going and going until insanity ruled.