Tag:Danys Baez
Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:26 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:27 am
 

The best (19th inning) pitcher in the game

PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Halladay didn't no-hit the Reds.

Wilson Valdez did.

Roy Halladay didn't make this game memorable. Wilson Valdez did.

No one will ever forget the night Halladay no-hit the Reds in the playoffs. And no one will ever forget the night (early morning?) that Valdez no-hit the Reds in the 19th inning.

I know this much: The next time Halladay pitches against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, I'm there. And you should be, too.

The first time he faced them, Reds starter Travis Wood took a perfect game to the ninth inning. The next time he faced them, Halladay made like Don Larsen.

And Wednesday night -- early Thursday morning -- Valdez made like . . . Roy Halladay?

Well, sort of.

Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. He has 175 career wins, and a 3.29 career ERA.

Valdez is a utility infielder, who last pitched in some town game in the Dominican Republic, nine years ago. And he now has a 1-0 career record, and a 0.00 career ERA.

He got Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Carlos Fisher in the top of the 19th, and Raul Ibanez's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 19th made the Phillies -- and Valdez -- a 5-4 winner in one of the craziest games you'll ever see.

And Wilson Valdez was absolutely the star.

"He's wanted to pitch for a while," said Dane Sardinha, who caught him. "Now I'm sure he'll want to even more. But I'd hang it up right now if I were him. Perfect record."

Valdez was having none of that.

"Anytime they need me," he said.

And why not? He threw one pitch at 90 mph, most of the others at 88-89.

"That's better than some guys," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel hates the idea of using a position player to pitch. He said he'd never done it. But he ran out of pitchers, Danys Baez had already thrown 73 pitches (easily the most he'd thrown since he became a reliever eight years ago), and Manuel decided it would be too risky to use one of his other starting pitchers.

So Valdez it was, in the 19th inning, at 1 o'clock in the morning.

At first base, Ryan Howard told Reds coach Billy Hatcher, "If he throws anything like he throws it [across the infield] to me, he'll be nasty out there, because he throws sinkers."

Behind the plate, Sardinha put down one finger for a fastball, over and over. Valdez tried to shake him off ("I thought, what is he about to throw," Howard said), but Sardinha put down one finger again.

Votto flied out to center field, but then Valdez called his catcher to the mound. Actually, two catchers, because Carlos Ruiz was playing third base, and he joined the conversation, as well.

"He told me he wanted to throw his other pitches," a disbelieving Sardinha said. "Then he hit [Scott] Rolen with a slider."

In the stands, where a surprising number of fans remained, the crowd got as loud as it had in hours.

"Let's go Wilson!" they chanted. "Wil-son! Wil-son!"

Sardinha -- and Valdez -- went back to the fastball to get Bruce and Fisher, the final Reds pitcher, who threw 95 pitches in 5 2/3 innings and was in the game long enough to get two at-bats.

Then the Phillies scored, and the game was over, just 6 hours, 11 minutes after it began.

"It was a grind," Howard said. "But we got a new spark of life when Wilson went out there."

Valdez was the happiest Phillie around, even happier when a reporter told him he was clocked at 90 mph.

He admitted that he went to the mound with no pressure ("I just thought, throw a strike, because if [Votto] hits a home run, they're not going to say anything. He's a tough hitter.").

He said he was ready to keep pitching if the Phillies didn't score in the bottom of the 19th.

"I could go three more, four more, whatever," he said. "This is something I'm never going to forget."

I'm with him on that. And if you saw it, I'm guessing you are, too.

*****

Two more memorable lines from a memorable night:

Sardinha, on whether Valdez had good stuff: "I told him he did, but it was [just] all right. He had a good sinker, and that was it."

Baez, on his 16th-inning at-bat, when he struck out: "I put on the wrong helmet. I put on a helmet to hit left-handed, and I thought, 'There's something wrong.' And I forgot to put pine tar on the bat."

Manuel, on Valdez: "I put him in against the heart of the order, [to] see what he's got. I think he passed the test."

 
 
 
 
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