As a baseball fan, you know that matters have passed over into The Twilight Zone when you wake up to a text message that reads: “Valdez just shook off Sardinha to Votto!!” Valdez, of course, is Phillies utility infielder Wilson Valdez, and Votto is Joey Votto, the reigning NL MVP.
Valdez didn’t like his catcher’s pitch selection? How large is that selection?
Weirder still is the fact that Wilson Valdez should, arguably, now be listed above Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels on the Phillies pitching stats page after picking up the first MLB pitching victory by a position player since 2000 (Brett Mayne, Colorado). The Phillies’ Four Aces are now a combined 18-11 and carry an average ERA of 2.9975. Valdez is 1-0; his era is 0.0000. Moreover, en route to preserving his inherited 4-4 tie early May 26th, Valdez had to face not only Votto (F8), but also bombers Scott Rolen (HBP), and Jay Bruce (F8). (He recorded the inning’s third out by inducing Reds reliever Carlos Fisher to pop out to second base.) Raul Ibanez’ sac fly moved Valdez’ “hold” into the “win” column in the bottom of the 19th.
Consequently, Phillies fans have now moved Valdez from the “favorite valuable replacement” category into the “instant legend” hall of fame. Hell, he’d likely have been so moved even if the Phils had lost because he’d plunked Rolen, who famously turned his back on Philadelphia for “Baseball Heaven” (St. Louis) several years ago.
The 33-year-old infielder hit 89 or 90 on the radar gun, depending on whether you believe Yahoo! Sports or text messages from friends, and capped off a most interesting game that featured dramatic 10th inning home runs by Bruce and Ryan Howard, and a 73-pitch stint by Phillies reliever Danys Baez.
The game should also have given fans of other NL teams two causes for worry beyond the Fightin’ Phils’ discovery of another relief pitcher who “works.” First, the game presented further evidence of Philadelphia awakening from an offensive sleepwalk. After posting a 10-3 win over the Reds on May 23rd, the Phils booked 13 hits on Wednesday-Thursday. True, it took 19 innings to gather those hits, but they included two doubles (Carlos Ruiz and Valdez), a triple (Ibanez) and two homers (Ben Francisco and Howard). Second, NL opponents and their fans should not ignore the fact that role players (e.g., Valdez, Baez, Vance Worley, and John Mayberry, Jr.) have most definitely stepped up for Philly during Chase Utley’s early season absence and the aforementioned sleepwalk. Who would have predicted that, if a team were subtract its All-Star second baseman for the first 46 games of the season, that team would still be in first place in the NL East and have baseball’s second best record? Valdez’ smirk as he left the mound in the middle of the 19th said it all.
Brown, David. “Phillies Infielder Gets Pitching Win in 19-inning Marathon.” Yahoo! Sports [Big League Stew]. 26 May 2011.
Gelb, Matt. “A Win for the Weary.” ThePhiladelphia Inquirer26 May 2011: D1.
“[Philadelphia Phillies] Sortable Player Stats.” Phillies.com. 26 May 2011.
“Wilson Valdez.” Baseball-Reference.com. 26 May 2011.