It began innocently enough. A so-so, ho-hum game tied through nine innings. "Oh, cool. Free baseball!" was your first thought. A few innings later, you're wondering if maybe they could speed it up. Once the game hits the 15th inning, you're beginning to regret not going to bed back in the 12th, because now you're committed. You're in it for the long haul. There's no going to bed until the game is over and someone has won, dammit. The next morning, exhausted and bleary, you wonder if you hallucinated the end of the game.
Everything about this game was epic. Its length (six hours and eleven minutes). Ryan Howard's game tying solo shot. Danys Baez pitching five scoreless innings. Carlos Ruiz at third base. Wilson Valdez pitching the 19th. There were also long stretches of epically boring baseball. Innings in which nothing would happen, just the sounds of two not-so-great relievers exceeding expectations and keeping the game scoreless for 5 innings.
Despite the fact that Raul Ibanez actually sacrificed home the winning run, this game will be remembered for Wilson Valdez's exciting and adorable turn on the mound. And it should be, because let's face facts, it was one of the coolest things to happen all year. But Danys Baez's turn on the mound shouldn't be overlooked. I expected nothing but disaster when he came into the game, but he proved me (and I'm assuming nearly everyone with a functioning brain) wrong. He tossed five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk. It was unexpected to say the least, and one of the main reasons the Phillies eventually beat the Reds 5-4 in 19 innings.
That unbelievable outing from Baez was pretty much the last good thing he'd do in Philadelphia. His ERA was 3.33 after the 5/25 game, but would balloon to 6.25 by mid-July. He allowed at least one run in seven of his last ten appearances. He was designated for assignment on July 22, and released on August 1. I won't lie -- I was happy when he was let go. But now there will be one very good memory of his time with the Phillies. Yup, just the one.
-- Seeing Chooch at third base was delightful. He made a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful run for a foul ball that nearly landed him in the seats, and he kept walking over to the mound to meet with Valdez and Sardinha. He was going to get Wilson through that inning if it was the last thing he'd ever do.
-- Also delightful? Seeing the Phillies watch Valdez from the dugout. You could tell that everyone thought it was a total riot.
-- Scott Franzke got hilariously bitchy as the night went on. When David Herndon came in during the 11th inning, this is what he said: "David Herndon, who by the way hasn't exactly pounded the strike zone this season, seven walks in 13 1/3..." I love it when Franzke gets feisty.
-- Regrettable Larry Anderson Quote of the Game: "I've never passed a bar."