This was originally going to be a rant about how the Cubs’ terrible pitching managed to get even more terrible on Wednesday night.
And then Wilson Valdez and the Phillies came to our collective rescue.
With the Phils and Reds locked in an epic 6 hour, 11-minute extra-inning battle (aka 15 minutes longer than a 9-inning Yankees-Red Sox game), Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel had run his bullpen well dry when he turned to Valdez, a journeyman second baseman playing because of Chase Utley’s injury, to take the mound in the top of the 19th.
All Valdez was asked to do was retire the heart of the Reds order, starting with reigning NL MVP Joey Votto. Valdez got Votto, Jay Bruce and Reds pitcher Carlos Fisher (he was batting there because of a long-ago double switch) to fly out around hitting Scott Rolen with one out.
The Phillies went on to score in the bottom of the inning, making Valdez the first position player to record a win as a pitcher since the Rockies’ Brett Mayne in 2000.
As my friend’s wife noted, “That’s really going to throw off the back of his next baseball card.” I imagine it will also provide an interesting situation for anyone who might have Valdez on their fantasy baseball team, though if that’s the case I imagine their league is quite deep.
Though it’s not wildly unusual to see position players on the mound — Doug Dascenzo did so for the Cubs a number of times, and who could forget Jose Canseco’s stint as a reliever? — actually factoring into the decision is quite rare. Typically those guys only get into the game if it’s already a blowout. Prior to Mayne, the last position player to earn a win was Rocky Colavito in 1968 for the Yankees. Before that, it was Pittsburgh second baseman Johnny O’Brien against the Phillies in 1956.
So, congrats to Wilson Valdez on joining a club even more elite than throwing a perfect game. Now I hope the Cubs sign you this offseason — for the bullpen.
PS — Kudos to all the Philadelphia fans who stuck it out for 19 innings. As much crap as they get for booing Santa Claus and quasi-paralyzed Michael Irvin and having a jail cell at The Vet, their dedication to stick around until 1 a.m. and their wild cheering for Valdez the whole time he was on the mound was impressive to behold. There were more people in that park after 6 hours than there are at any point in a Marlins game.