PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Wilson Valdez has a new career as a late-inning reliever.
Late. Really, really late.
Valdez shifted over from second base and wound up as the winning pitcher early Thursday when the Philadelphia Phillies needed 19 innings to outlast the Cincinnati Reds 5-4.
In front of a dwindling crowd at Citizens Bank Park, Raul Ibanez hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to decide the longest major league game of the season. It ended at 1:19 a.m. local time after 6 hours, 11 minutes.
Shaving cream nestled in his beard and dripping off his ear in the locker room, Valdez wanted to keep pitching.
``I can go for three more, four more (innings). Whatever,' he said.
Who knows? The Phillies might need him on short notice
Not much time for rest, either. The teams were set to play again Thursday at 1:05 p.m.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel strolled through the clubhouse after 1:30 a.m. wishing everyone a good morning.
He had every reason to smile because of Valdez.
Valdez threw a hitless 19th inning in his first professional pitching appearance. Phillies fans stood and chanted ``Let's go, Wilson!' when the 33-year-old Valdez shifted from second to the mound.
The first batter he faced was Joey Votto, and the reigning NL MVP flied out to deep center field.
Valdez acted like a seasoned closer. He hit 90 mph on a fastball to Votto. He shook off catcher Dane Sardinha. And he showed no fear.
``If he hits a home run, they're not going to say anything to me,' said Valdez, laughing.
Not bad for a journeyman infielder who became the first position player to earn a win since Colorado catcher Brent Mayne on Aug. 22, 2000, according to STATS LLC. Mayne went one inning in a 7-6 victory over Atlanta in 12 innings.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard put his mitt over his face to hide his smile when Valdez shook off his catcher.
``I was like, 'What is he going to throw? What does he have?'' Howard said. ``It was funny, but he got it done.'
Some fans, young and old, already were asleep in the stands as the game played on. But plenty of the die-hards who stuck around made it a lively atmosphere, especially when Valdez took over as Philadelphia's ninth pitcher.
Valdez threw one pitch to the backstop and hit Scott Rolen. But the Phillies' newest right-hander then retired Jay Bruce on a fly ball and got Reds reliever Carlos Fisher (0-1) on a popup.
``If it's anything like how he throws balls to me, it's going to be nasty up there,' Howard said. ``He throws a lot of sinkers.'
Fisher, the Reds' seventh pitcher, worked 5 2-3 innings and gave up one run and four hits. The Phillies used 21 players overall, the Reds 20.
Fisher finally wore down when Jimmy Rollins singled to open the 19th, Domonic Brown walked and Placido Polanco sacrificed. Thousands of fans derisively chanted ``Fisher! Fisher!' before he intentionally walked Howard to load the bases. Ibanez had been 1 for 8 on the night when he hit a fly to deep center to win it.
``The fans were great to get on him like that,' Howard said. ``We couldn't have done it without them.'
The Reds used seven pitchers and the Phillies nine. The Reds had 15 hits to Philadelphia's 13.
Some of the box score numbers were rough. Reds third baseman Scott Rolen was 0 for 7 and Phillies infielder Placido Polanco was 1 for 8.
Bruce homered in the 10th for the Reds, then Howard went deep and tied it in the bottom half. They ended up playing the longest game in the eight-season history of the ballpark.
By the time it was over, the Reds and Phillies still had a long way to go to match the latest-ending game in the big leagues this year. It was 2:45 a.m. at Fenway Park when the Los Angeles Angels beat Boston in the 13th inning of a rain-delayed game earlier this month.
The Phillies still had a couple innings left to match the longest game in team history: a 2-1 loss to Chicago in 21 innings on July 17, 1918. The Reds lost to San Francisco 1-0 in 21 innings on Sept. 1, 1967, in the longest game in their history.
Phillies reliever Danys Baez threw 73 pitches and tossed one-hit ball over five scoreless innings. He led off the 16th using a bat that hardly looked game used, drawing chuckles from Phillies star Shane Victorino and Manuel in the dugout.
Baez was confused. He grabbed the wrong helmet and forgot to stick pine tar on the bat.
``My arm feels good now,' Baez said. ``I don't know about tomorrow.'
Today is tomorrow.
``Well, in six hours.'
The Phillies squandered a chance to win it in the 18th when Valdez was stranded on second after a two-out double. Fisher retired Michael Martinez on a liner to left.
Bruce hit a shot off Antonio Bastardo over the scoreboard into the front row of the right-field seats for his 13th homer of the year to put the Reds ahead in the 10th.
Bruce hit a tiebreaking, three-run double in the ninth to lead the Reds to a 6-3 win on Tuesday. He hit a three-run homer against the Phillies on Monday to give him nine RBIs in the series.
It was no consolation.
``It's definitely the strangest game I've ever been a part of,' Bruce said. ``All that effort and time and you lose. It's tough.'
Howard tagged Francisco Cordero for his 11th homer to make it 4-all.
``One of the biggest downers in baseball is the late-inning blown save,' Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the game.
And this one?
``A real tough one to lose,' Baker said.
Notes: The Phillies should decide Thursday if RHP Jose Contreras is ready to come off the disabled list. Contreras has five saves and hasn't allowed a run this season. ... Phillies RHP Joe Blanton visited renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his injured elbow. Blanton will start a throwing program in three to four weeks.
The Associated Press News Service
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