Saturday, February 13, 2016

210 000 000 100 000 000 1 - W: Valdez (1-0)

You can watch a lot of baseball and not see a series of events like those that occurred in the early morning hours of May 26.

210 000 000 100 000 000 1 - W: Valdez (1-0)

Danys Baez threw 74 pitches in five scoreless innings last night for the Phillies. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Danys Baez threw 74 pitches in five scoreless innings last night for the Phillies. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

You can watch a lot of baseball and not see a series of events like those that occurred in the early morning hours of May 26.

By the time it was over - 19 innings covering 6 hours and 11 minutes - a back-up infielder who had never thrown a major league pitch had one more win than 2010 NL Cy Young contender Ubaldo Jimenez.

Wilson Valdez pitched a scoreless 19th inning -- retiring Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, to boot -- before watching Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez combine to drive home the game winner.

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Phillies 5, Reds 4

As amusing as Valdez's pitching performance was, the story of the night was one of the gutsiest pitching performance you will see. The last time Danys Baez threw as many as 58 pitches in a game, he was a 20-something-year-old rookie fresh out of Cuba. Last night, as a 33-year-old veteran, he threw 74. Baez pitched five scoreless innings, lowering his ERA from 4.19 to 3.33 in the process.

He was the last line of defense between the bullpen and a pitching cameo by Valdez, and he came through in a huge way.

Those who watch Baez operate behind scenes know that his performance last night was the epitome of who he is: a true professional, determined beyond all imagination, tough as sandpaper, and willing to do anything to contribute to a victory. Since signing with the Phillies two years ago, he hasn't done much on the field. But in the bullpen and in the clubhouse he has emerged as a strong veteran presence, particularly with injuries to Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras.

Last week, as Ryan Madson struggled with his command while warming in the bullpen, Baez shouted out some mechanical flaws he noticed. Madson went on to record the save. Whether it is working with and translating for Contreras or counseling the club's younger pitchers, Baez had evolved into a respected leader.

Last night the Phillies needed him on the mound. He gave them more than they ever could have expected.

In Philadelphia, it is the moments that define you. Maybe it is like that everywhere. But I know Philly. And in Philly, it is the moments that matter: the aging, veteran slugger swinging from his stirrups and crushing a go-ahead home run in the National League Championship Series; the square-nosed center fielder sprinting face first into an outfield fence in order to catch a fly ball; the all-world first baseman signing that contract and giving relevance to a long-suffering franchise.

Last night was Danys Baez's moment. He may never fulfill the expectations the Phillies had for him when they brought him aboard. He may never strike out a batter in the late innings of a tight game. But he can never be accused of not trying his damnedest.

Last night, his damnedest happened to be enough.

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Staff Writer
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