So, just about every single person who reads this blog has asked me at this point if I stayed for all 19 innings. Yes, I’ve gotten upwards of 6 or 7 text messages about it. I left after 12. The middle of the Phillies order had just gone quietly, it looked like Cincy was going to have the next best chance to score, and so I made the executive decision. I was sitting by myself at this point. My fellow attendees had already left to catch a train. The thought of sitting by myself for what would have been over 2 hours isn’t too appealing. I’m not one to strike up random friendships in the stands. And, had the Phillies lost in say 17 innings? God, that would have been awful. Of course, they didn’t though, and now I look a bit like a baby.
In fact, on the drive home, somewhere around inning 14 I was listening to LA and what’s his face, Franzke(?) on the radio broadcast and they were whining incessantly about how long the game was going and how late it was. They were making all the stupid jokes, “oh, what day is it?” “If the game ends by tomorrow.” Yuk, yuk, yuk. Of course, at that point it was only 11:30, and I found myself ripping them for complaining about still being on the air. Then I realized I had already left the stadium and didn’t have much room to talk. But, it’s not my job to be there. The radio guys seem to be getting very sarcastic, kind of lost in their own little world of inside jokes, I don’t know if that is because they think no one is listening, or what, but they bother me.
Regardless, it was quite a game that unfolded after I left. Sort of. It may have been the most boring eight innings of baseball ever played followed by Wilson Valdez getting a win and Ruiz manning 3rd base. One thing the old-timers always grumble about is that they like baseball because there is no clock. In football they would have tied. In hockey they would have forced an outcome. In basketball you run out of steam a lot quicker. But, in baseball, you got the feeling that they might really be out there all night. The hitters on both sides obviously were in a fog after the 11th or so. After blowing chances on both sides there really wasn’t a threat to be had for almost an entire game’s worth of innings. And, that was against the dregs of the bullpen.
The Reds allowed Halladay to wiggle out of trouble, the Phillies couldn’t hit a sacrifice fly to save their lives, Charlie Manuel made some very questionable decisions with his pinch-hitters, the teams traded solo homers in the 10th. It was a gosh darn crazy night that probably should have never happened.
Valdez was the first Phillies position player to pitch since Tomas Perez went 1/3 of an inning in a blowout loss in 2002. If I remember correctly, Perez and Valdez have similar stuff. Going back further than that I have to rely on my better than average mid-80s Phillies knowledge to remember other position players trying their hand on the mound. Glenn Wilson went one shutout inning in a blowout in 1987. Wilson had a great arm in RF and likely had plenty of high school pitching experience to fall back on. And of course, Greg Gross baffled the Expos with an array of breaking stuff in 1986, striking out 2 in a scoreless frame. So, it appears that the Phillies have pretty good success with these guys on the hill. Maybe Charlie shouldn’t be so stubborn. Valdez’s win was the first by a position player since Brent Mayne, and the first by a player who started in the field since Babe Ruth. Somewhere Kirkjian and Stark are preparing dueling soliloquies.