A Win for the Weary
Phillies prevail over Reds in 19th
The shaving cream still dotted Wilson Valdez's goatee as he headed for the shower in the Phillies' clubhouse a little before 2 a.m.
"That's something I'm never going to forget," Valdez said.
Six hours and 11 minutes after it began Wednesday night, the Phillies danced on home plate at 1:19 a.m. Thursday morning. A Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly in the 19th inning had ended the longest Phillies game in 18 years.
Phillies 5, Reds 4 (19 innings).
No, no one will forget the night Wilson Valdez took the mound and threw seven pitches to retire Joey Votto, the National League's MVP, and Jay Bruce, who had earlier hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run single off the best pitcher on the planet and later homered in the 10th inning. He threw 10 pitches in all and allowed just one runner to reach base.
Charlie Manuel will never forget because in his 19 years of managing, he has insisted on not using a position player to pitch. (The last Phillies position player to pitch was Tomas Perez in 2002.)
"I hate doing that," Manuel said. "That's the first time I've ever run out of pitchers."
Danys Baez will never forget because he was the true hero on this night. Baez, the 33-year-old Cuban maligned by a fan base for his 5.10 ERA and $5.25 million salary as a Phillie wanted to keep pitching until his team won.
At some point, the Phillies decided that winning this game was less important than to risk injuring one of the three aces not named Roy Halladay who had yet to pitch. So Baez was asked to throw until his arm fell off and he did this quite well.
Rich Dubee told Baez after his third inning he was done. Baez said no.
"I didn't want Valdez to face anybody," Baez said. "I wanted to give the team a chance to win the ballgame."
When his five innings were over, Baez had thrown 73 pitches, the most he's thrown in a game in nine years. It could result in an injury later, but Baez wanted to pitch Wednesday until he could not any longer. His teammates will not forget that.
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 one-out bases-loaded scenario in the ninth inning that resulted in no Phillies runs.
There were 2 1/3 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.
And then, when all of 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 base when he was hit by a pitch. Valdez 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 Colorado's Brent Mayne did it in 2000. He is the first player to start a game in the field and then win the same game as a pitcher since some guy named Babe Ruth did it 90 years ago.
"They asked me to pitch and I said, 'Yeah, why not?'" Valdez said. "I knew we didn't have anyone in the pen."
At first base, Ryan Howard could not contain his laughter, so he stuffed his face in his glove. Valdez was shaking off catcher Dane Sardinha.
"I was like, what is he about to throw?" Howard said. "What does he have?"
Turns out Valdez has some heat. He averaged 87 m.p.h. and actually threw a fastball at 90 m.p.h. That pitch was fouled off by Joey Votto and chased down by catcher-turned-third-baseman Carlos Ruiz until he flipped over the rolled-up tarp and the ball landed in a fan's hand.
You think the Phillies wanted to win this one?
"To win it like we did? That ranks right up there," Manuel said. "Probably one of the better ones."
It's impossible to note all of the bizarre happenings spawned by 600 total pitches thrown. Take the top of the 11th inning, when three Phillies pitchers — Kyle Kendrick, J.C. Romero and David Herndon — faced six Cincinnati hitters.
Three were walked. One was hit. The three outs were recorded on a Kendrick strikeout, a Romero pickoff at second and a chopper to Herndon that nearly toppled him over.
No runs scored.
Or how about in the ninth, when the Phillies loaded the bases with one out but could not score? With Ben Francisco, who had homered earlier, due up, 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.
An inning later, Ryan Howard prevented everyone from going home with a solo home run hit so far he stood to admire 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.
Except the game kept going until it delved into true insanity.
"That was a funny game," Manuel said.
And as a reward, Manuel decried there would be no batting practice before the next game, scheduled to start less than 12 hours after this one ended.
It was all worth it.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or @magelb on Twitter.