Wilson Valdez faces Scott Rolen in the top of the 19th inning. (Photo by John Russo)
Last year I told my father that I would never witness anything like we just did again.
That conversation came on the drive home from the Phils 16-inning loss to the Houston Astros last August. Ryan Howard almost killed an ump, Roy Oswalt played left field and Raul Ibanez played first.
Boy was I wrong.
Last night’s 19-inning, 5-4 win over Cincinnati was more than just a marathon. It was the most bizarre game I had ever attended.
The winning pitcher on the night should have been Danys Baez for his five innings of one-hit ball. But instead, that decision went to Wilson Valdez.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. After Charlie Manuel was done torturing Baez’s throwing arm, he pinch-hit his last bench guy, Dane Sardinha, for his last reliever.
In a move that looked like something straight out of Little League, Sardinha put on the catcher’s equipment while the infield cycled. Carlos Ruiz, who had caught the previous 18 innings and deserves a breather in today’s game, trotted out to third base. Placido Polanco rotated to second and Valdez jogged out to the hill and began to warm up.
Valdez wasn’t exactly throwing heat but he was hitting his fastball between 87-89 MPH.
But Valdez’s wasn’t as funny as you looked. Due up for the Reds were the reigning NL MVP Joey Votto, former Phils slugger Scott Rolen and the series MVP Jay Bruce, who had homered in the 10th and had three of Cincinnati’s RBIs.
Valdez got Votto to fly out to deep center on an 87-MPH fastball which was batting practice speed for the young left-handed slugger. He then plunked Rolen to the approval of the fans.
The nail-biting began with Bruce at the plate. Bruce hit a towering fly that was snagged by Domonic Brown for the second out. Reliever Carlos Fisher followed up with a weak pop up to end the inning.
But before Valdez’s whacky heroics, Baez did something he had never expected to do. Baez was phenomenal through five innings, allowing only a walk and a hit while striking out three. He threw 73 pitches, the most since 2005.
The same goes for Fisher on Cincy’s side. He finally broke down in his 6th inning, throwing 95 pitches and allowing a run on four hits and three walks with four strike outs. But you could tell he was getting gassed as he started walking guys and was getting hit hard. It was only a matter of time before those hits fell in.
What Valdez did was pure luck but what Fisher and Baez did were gutsy, ballsy and everything between. The real winners were those two relievers. They will enjoy a well-deserved few-days rest after this game.
I promise you, I will never see anything like this again.