As far as headlines go, the one above is not what Phillies fans generally expect to see. But it was a back-up player and a much maligned bullpen pitcher who saved the day for the Phillies on Wednesday night against the Reds.
It took more than six hours and nine pitchers, but the Phillies finally pulled out a 5-4, 19-inning win. Both offenses struggled to score runs and for the Phils, this has been problematic all season.
I have two words rattling around my brain in regards to the Phillies offense: frustrating and painful. This team has been painful to watch most of the season so far. And they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, which is incredibly frustrating.
For example, Raul Ibanez led off the sixth inning with a triple. So with NO outs and a man on third, what should happen just doesn’t. Carlos Ruiz swung at the first pitch and popped out. John Mayberry Jr. watched a called-strike three go by. And then Wilson Valdez is walked intentionally to get to the pitcher. Result: NO run, when all they needed was a sac fly or some form of contact with the ball that did not turn into a pop-up.
And this is exactly the sort of thing that is plaguing the Phillies offense. They faced a Reds pitcher who was off his game and they did not take advantage. Instead, they got themselves out by being impatient and swinging at bad pitches.
So just like Tuesday night, with a 3-1 lead, the Phillies watched the Reds come back to tie the game, 3-3 by the seventh inning. They got hurt, again, by Jay Bruce with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a two-run single off Roy Halladay, who had a few issues tonight. However, the defense behind him did little to help.
But once the game entered the wee hours of the morning, many forgot that Halladay had even started the game. The bullpen took over for a total of 12 innings.
Danys Baez, who has taken a lot of abuse from Phillies fans for his lack of consistency, was one of the hero’s in this game. He pitched a career-high five innings and 73 pitches to carry the Phils through the 18th inning. He allowed only one hit, one walk and zero runs.
Last year, Baez was so bad that many hoped he would be cut. And this year has been up and down for him. But rest assured that after an effort like this, Baez is keeping his job.
After Baez exited, the unexpected happened. Wilson Valdez stepped onto the pitcher’s mound. And he was tasked with facing the heart of the Reds line-up in Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce, who had absolutely been killing the Phils all series long.
But Valdez gave a valiant performance, even clocking over 90mph on the radar gun. He got Votto to fly out to deep center, hit Rolen with a pitch and then two more fly-outs to end the inning. As he exited the field, the crowd went crazy cheering for him.
Valdez is the first player to start in the field and move on to pitching since Babe Ruth. Seriously. He is also the first Phillies position player to pitch since Tomas Perez did it in 2002. The game win went to Valdez and afterwards he told Comcast Sportsnet, “I like to win,” in response to why he agreed to pitch. He also joked that he could have gone three or four more innings.
Raul Ibanez hit a sac fly to score Jimmy Rollins for the win in the 19th inning. In a game where an infielder pitched, a catcher (Carlos Ruiz) played third base and the team left 16 men on base, this win has to be a huge boost for the Phillies.
The last game with the Reds comes quick after this one; Thursday afternoon at 1:05pm. Cliff Lee will pitch.
Ross Gload is not playing right now due to a slight muscle tear in his hip. This is same sort of injury that Chase Utley played through in 2008, which eventually required surgery. Gload is expected to play through it as well.
Jose Contreras should return to the team sometime this week. Odds are good that David Herndon will be sent down to make room.
Chase Utley got a day off today, except for a pinch-hitting appearance, in what appears to be an effort to err on the side of caution by not pushing him too hard, too soon. He should play again Thursday.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography