Ball Night Long

classic Phillies 'P' modified with crescent moon inside against starry night background

I was up late enough last night to watch my Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4,
in the 19th inning of their 6-hour, 11-minute game. It was the longest MLB matchup of 2011 so far, no surprise, as well as the longest game for the Phils since 1993 and longest for the Reds since 1972.

Sadly, I’d not seen any of it prior to the final inning — although I heard some of it on the radio and the post-game coverage provided a pretty good recap.

That kind of game is a hoot as long as your team ends up victorious, even moreso for the players than for the fans because, well, they’re the ones playing and they don’t have the luxury of just checking out highlights in the morning. Never mind how next up was a day game that whichever team ended up demoralized in the wee hours was almost certain to lose. And indeed the Phils beat the Reds 10-4 in that last game of the homestand, with Cliff Lee less than brilliant on the mound today but making up for allowing four runs by batting in three himself. Clearly it was Topsy-Turvy Day, since the winning pitcher of record in the overnight endurance test was utility infielder Wilson Valdez; he came on to pitch at the top of what turned out to be the final inning after manager Charlie Manuel ran through the entire available bullpen.

While it exhausts the roster in the literal sense, I enjoy the ridiculous marathon once
in a blue moon for the way it exhausts the roster in the sense of using everyone up and making the managers scramble. As Manuel told the home-plate umpire that he was moving Carlos Ruiz from behind the plate to 3rd base for another catcher, with Placido Polanco shifting from 3rd to 2nd and, oh yeah, Valdez going to the pitcher’s mound, the disbelief was apparently palpable.

I’m pretty sure that the first time in recent memory I saw a position player called on to pitch in a game like this, Gary Gaetti stepped up for the St. Louis Cardinals, and even though I was still rooting for the Phillies I respected him. It’s so rare, however, that the substitute wins — basically making it through one scoreless frame of an inning and having your teammates score a run in the other half — that no position player has done so since 2000, and no position player has actually won after moving to the mound from the field, as opposed to coming in off the bench, since Babe Ruth did that in 1921. [Note: The Baseball Hall of Fame has asked for Valdez’s cap to be sent to Cooperstown.]

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  1. I'd love to have seen that 19th inning unfold. We were at the Mets/Phillies game last night, and as soon as Utley scored Rollins to make it 2-2 in the 8th those of us in the Phillies contingent all started joking, "Tie game! Time to bring in Valdez!"

  2. What the @#$%? Tell me which is worse: Losing to the Nationals 10-2 or losing to them 2-1?

  3. Hopefully at some point this season I'll get to see my Twins play a real game of baseball...