Once a game gets deep enough into extra innings, there are three possible outcomes for any home fans remaining in the stands:
(1) See their team lose
(2) See their team use a position player on the mound
(3) See their team win
If you stick around that long and see your team lose, you're devastated, far more than you would be by a loss in nine innings. You feel like you threw away several hours of your time for nothing. You feel stupid.
If you stick around that long and see your team use a position player on the mound, the actual score of the game becomes irrelevant, and everything becomes about the player playing out of place. At that point, the game is less of an important game, and more a source of silliness and entertainment.
And if you stick around that long and see your team win, it feels better than a win. It feels like two wins. It feels like a win that you earned with your commitment.
On Wednesday night, Phillies fans got to combine #2 and #3. Out of available pitchers, in the top of the 19th inning the Phillies handed the ball to infielder Wilson Valdez. And in the bottom of the 19th inning, the Phillies won on a sacrifice fly.
Valdez was the story. Of course Valdez was the story. Having begun the game at second base, he became the first player to start at a position and then earn a win as the pitcher since Babe Ruth did it in 1921. He became the first position player to win since Brent Mayne in 2000. Valdez volunteered to take the mound in the dugout, and with the crowd chanting his name, he pumped gas, reaching as high as 90 m.p.h. Looking a little like Tony Pena Jr., Valdez needed just ten pitches to work around a HBP and retire Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and (real) pitcher Carlos Fisher.
But the great shame of Valdez's appearance and victory - if there is one - is that it'll push aside everything else that took place, and everything that led up to that half-inning. The two teams were, after all, even through 18.
Way way back, the Phillies struck for three against Reds starter Travis Wood, and the Reds rallied for three against Phillies starter Roy Halladay. A two-run single by Bruce in the seventh knotted the score at 3-3.
And after some good work by both bullpens, that's where the score remained into the tenth, when Bruce took Antonio Bastardo deep for a tie-breaking solo homer. The Reds handed the ball to closer Francisco Cordero in the bottom half, looking for him to slam the door with his 300th career save.
But he couldn't, as Ryan Howard almost immediately took him deep to center. And then began the zeroes.
In the 11th, the Reds drew three walks and a HBP without scoring a run. Kyle Kendrick, J.C. Romero, David Herndon, and Danys Baez kept the Reds off the board until the 19th, with Baez throwing 73 pitches.
On the other side, Cordero, Logan Ondrusek, and Carlos Fisher also kept the Phillies off the board until the 19th. Fisher - who hasn't started a game since 2007 - wound up throwing 95 pitches, only seven fewer than starter Wood.
In the top of the 19th, Valdez took the mound, with Carlos Ruiz shifting to third base after catching 18 innings. Valdez retired three of the four batters he faced using a series of tailing fastballs. Joey Votto made good contact, but flew out just short of the track.
And in the bottom half, Fisher finally cracked. Jimmy Rollins lined a single into left, and Domonic Brown followed by drawing a walk. A bunt and an intentional walk later, Raul Ibanez stepped up and lifted a long fly to center that was plenty deep to score Rollins from third. The 601st pitch of the game proved to be the last as the Phillies won 5-4, and Wilson Valdez improved to 1-0. Jo-Jo Reyes just poured himself a shot.
So the Phillies players all get to rest easy after pulling off an incredible win, and oh hey good news the Reds and Phillies finish their series on Thursday at 1:05pm. Homer Bailey and Cliff Lee are going to want to put on their strike-throwing hats.