By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
It what was a bizarre, six-hour marathon in which the Phillies blew several chances to win, exhausted their bullpen and managed to outlast Cincinnati Reds 5-4 in 19 innings in what was the longest, if not the most zaniest game in the brief history of Citizen’s Bank Park.
With the bases loaded and just one out, Raul Ibanez’s sacrifice fly to center scoring Jimmy Rollins from third finally won it for the exhausted Phillies.
“That was a funny game,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “It also shows you how hard it is to get a hit. It seemed like nobody was ever going to get a hit.”
The final winning score was the merely punctuation mark of a game that ended at 1:19 a.m Eastern Daylight Time. How we got to that point will be stamped in the lore of the Phillies for a good long time.
Utility infielder Wilson Valdez, who last pitched in a pickup game in the Dominican Republic in 2002, was the winning pitcher. He was the first position player to get a win for the Phillies since Jimmy Foxx did it in 1945. It was the first time, the Phillies used a position player on the mound since Tomas Perez in 2002. Valdez started the game at second base and got three hits.
In the top of the 19th inning, Valdez faced Joey Votto, the 2010 National Most Valuable Player and got him to fly out to center. That got the crowd chanting, “Wilson, Wilson, Wilson! After hitting third baseman Scott Rolen, he then he got Jay Bruce to fly out center and Reds pitcher Carlos Fisher to pop out to second. What was left of the announced attendance of 45, 706, went to an uproarious frenzy.
“I was concentrating on pitching. It was something that I will never going to forget,” said a smiling Valdez, who was hit with a shaving cream pie during the postgame interview with Comcast SportsNet. “I can go for two more, three more or four more whatever. I like to win and if I have to pitch five or three innings, I go for it. I like to win. I like to go home happy.”
Oddly, enough Valdez’s fast ball was clocked somewhere around 89 or 90 miles pers hour. Okay, so he’s not the second coming Cy Young, but he was good enough for the Phillies.
“He’s got a good arm and so we figured that he was the guy,” Manuel said smiling. “I think he’s got a fastball. It was 88 or 89. That’s better than some guys I see go out there. I put him right there against the middle of the (Reds) order to see what he’s got. He passed the test.”
Another move Manuel made was to put catcher Carlos Ruiz at third base and Placido Polanco at second. Ruiz got the crowd cheering by barreling into the crowd on the third base trying to a foul ball off the bat of Votto.
Perhaps the real pitching hero for the Phillies was right-handed pitcher Danys Baez. A guy who has not necessarily been a favorite of Phillies fans, Baez pitched a solid five innings, allowing just one hit, with one walk and three strikeouts. He threw 73 pitches. It was his longest stint as a relief pitcher.
“I think I got the most out of him, didn’t I?,” Manuel said laughing. “It just goes to show he can pitch, though. He said he felt good. He said he wanted to go. He stayed in there. I don’t have to tell you that he did a super job. He got into it.”
On a night when Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay was merely average, the Phillies offense spotted him a 3-0. Under normal circumstances, a three-run lead would be enough for the Phils ace. Tonight, it wasn’t. For the game, Halladay allowed three runs on 11 hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
If there is any one player that the Phillies will be glad to see go his merry way when this homestand is over it’s Bruce. For the past two games, he has been torturing Phillies pitchers by coming up with the big hit to alter the outcome of each contest.
In top of the 10th inning, Bruce hit a solo homerun that put the Reds up 4-3. With two out and the bases loaded and the Phillies clinging to a 3-1 lead in the top of the seventh, Bruce lined a single off Halladay to right field that scored two runs to tie the game. The night before, Bruce had a base-loaded double off Ryan Madson in the ninth that scored three runs and gave the Reds the win.
But just when it looked like Bruce was going to be the hero of the night for the second straight night, Ryan Howard led off the 10th with a solo homerun to keep the game going until its strange finish in the bottom of the 19th inning.
The Phillies opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-run homer by Ben Francisco. The Phillies upped the lead to 3-0 in their half of the third inning on an RBI single by John Mayberry Jr. that scored Ruiz, who doubled to open the frame.
In the fifth, the Reds got on the board with an RBI single by Joey Votto that scored Drew Stubbs from second to cut the deficit to 3-1 before their game-tying rally in the seventh.
The Phillies certainly had their chances to win this game in regulation. They had the bases loaded in the bottom of ninth with one out and could not score. Domonic Brown pinch hitting for Ben Francisco popped out to the catcher and Polanco bounced out on a force at second to end the innning.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, the Phillies had Michael Martinez on second with two out, but Brown struck out on a foul tip. It was the second time, he came up short with men in scoring position.