At 7:05 PM ET last night, Roy Halladay toed the rubber at Citizens Bank Park to face the Cincinnati Reds for the first time since he tossed the second no-hitter in postseason history against them in last years NLDS. Six hours and eleven minutes later, in the bottom half of the 19th inning, Raul Ibanez capped a magical night that will go down in Philadelphia lore by smacking the 600th pitch of the game into deep center field, allowing Jimmy Rollins to tag up from third and score the winning run, giving the Phillies a 5-4 victory. However at the conclusion of the game, Halladay wasn’t the Phillies pitcher garnering all of the attention; instead, it was journeyman infielder Wilson Valdez, who moved over from second base to pitch for the first time in his professional baseball career (majors or minors). After being proactive and convincing his skipper that he could indeed do it, Valdez entered the game in the top of the 19th and immediately retired the NL’s reigning MVP, Joey Votto. After hitting Scott Rolen with his next offer, Valdez stepped off the mound and went to the rosin bag, looking like a seasoned closer. After shaking off his catcher, Valdez went on to retire the side – getting Reds slugger Jay Bruce to fly out and reliever Carlos Fisher to pop out. That’s right, in the top of the 19th inning, a second baseman was pitching to a middle relief pitcher. That’s why I love baseball. Valdez strolled off the mound to a roaring ovation from the Philly Faithful, and immediately wrapped his arm in a towel to keep it warm, again looking like he’d done this before. Thanks to Ibanez’s sac-fly in the bottom of the 19th, Valdez became the first position player to win a ballgame in eleven years, according to STATS LLC. Finally, at 1:19 AM ET, the Philly fans were able to rejoice in the W. Phil’s manager Charlie Manuel’s bold move paid off, but you can’t exactly blame Reds skipper Dusty Baker for not going to a position player to pitch. The last time he did that, shortstop Paul Janish got knocked around to the tune of five earned runs – at the hand of the Milwaukee Brewers.
BTW: The last player to start a game in the field and end up as the winning pitcher… Babe Ruth.