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Thursday, May 26, 2011
Inside the Philly Marathon


Judging by the tweets that came flying at me all night long, people seem to think that 19-inning games in which the starting second baseman turns out to be the winning pitcher are kind of unusual.

Also judging by all those tweets, I'm required by law to put goofy games like Wednesday's Reds-Phillies classic in their proper historically weird perspective.

So OK, you got your wish. Here goes:

• All right, let's start here. Everybody out there on planet Earth who predicted that Wilson Valdez would win a game this season (on the mound, that is) before a pitcher who started the All-Star Game last year (Ubaldo Jimenez), please raise your hands. Thank you. Now you'll all be charged with exactly 19 counts of perjury. This court will not appoint a lawyer to defend you.

• But if it makes Ubaldo feel better, here are the other luminaries who have joined him in the Wilson Valdez Won A Game Before I Did Club:

Stauffer was the Padres' Opening Day starter. Hughes made the All-Star team last year. Danks was a 15-game winner. Zito is making $18.5 million. Kazmir started Game 1 of the only World Series he ever appeared in. Teheran and Duffy rank among the best pitching prospects in baseball.

And not one of them won a game in the big leagues this year before Wilson Valdez. Unbelievable.

• More historical minutiae: Valdez was the first position player to win a game since Brent Mayne on Aug. 22, 2000. And those two are the only position players to win a game in the 43-season division-play era. He and Mayne also are the only National League position players to win a game since 1923 and just the fourth and fifth since 1900.

• But wait. We're not through. As the Elias Sports Bureau reported, Valdez was the first man to start a game in the field and then win it on the mound since that ringer Babe Ruth did it for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1921, in a game he started in left field. And that's the first time we've ever linked Babe Ruth and Wilson Valdez in the same note, for some reason.

• One more Babe Ruth tidbit: Of the nine times in the live-ball era that a guy who was mostly a position player won a game as a pitcher, Ruth won FOUR of them. He did it -- for amusement purposes, primarily -- in 1920, 1921, 1930 and 1933.

• OK, now back to our show. We're STILL not through with Wilson Valdez claims to fame. Valdez was the first second baseman to win a game since that immortal 5-foot-3 Cleveland Blues infield whiz, Cub Stricker, did it in 1888. One question: How come Cub Stricker never played for the Cubs?

• Meanwhile, Valdez hit 89.5 mph on the radar gun, according to Pitch F/X, and his fastball averaged 87 mph. Among the pitchers whose fastball velocity has averaged SLOWER than that this year, according to FanGraphs: Mark Buehrle (85.4), Shaun Marcum (86,4), Bronson Arroyo (86.6), Jeff Francis (85.3) and, of course, Livan Hernandez (83.7).

And now, in non-Valdezian developments …

Francisco Cordero blew a save for the Reds in extra innings in this game, forcing them to play another NINE innings and lose. According to Elias, this was the first game since the institution of the save rule in 1969 that any team wound up playing at least nine innings after its closer blew a save in extra innings. Sounds like a Kangaroo Court fine to me.

• Before Wednesday, the average Roy Halladay game this year had barely lasted 2½ hours (2:32, to be exact). So you won't be shocked to learn this was, by far, the longest game ever in one of Halladay's starts. The previous high, according to Elias: 4 hours, 45 minutes, in a 14-inning game between the Blue Jays and Yankees on Sept. 21, 2007.

• A mere 600 pitches were thrown in this game, making it the fifth 600-pitch game in this millennium. The four that topped it, according to baseball-reference.com:

• The most bizarre inning in this marathon involving any pitcher (or pitchers)? It had nothing to do with Wilson Valdez, believe it or not. In the 11th inning, the Reds had a sequence in which four consecutive hitters went HBP-walk-walk-walk against relievers J.C. Romero and Kyle Kendrick -- and they didn't score (because Romero picked Brandon Phillips off second in the middle of all that).

The last time any team had four straight hitters reach base in extra innings (on a walk, hit batter or hit) without scoring? Elias reports that the Yankees did it in the 13th inning against the Twins on May 17, 2002, on a Jason Giambi single, Jorge Posada double, Robin Ventura intentional walk and Enrique Wilson walk. So what happened there? Giambi got thrown out at the plate on Posada's double.

• Last time a team put four straight hitters on base via walk or HBP in extra innings and didn't give up a run? The Dodgers did it in the 11th inning against the Padres on Sept. 28, 1988 (walk, walk, walk, walk, with a stolen base in the middle) -- but escaped because Rick Dempsey threw out pinch runner Bip Roberts trying to steal second.

• And, finally, there was Romero's nutty line in this game: 1/3 IP, 3 walks, 0 runs. Loyal reader Eric Seidman, of FanGraphs and brotherlyglove.com fame, reports that Romero is the first reliever in the last 50 seasons to spin off a line like that and get his only out via a pickoff.

Loyal tweeter Heather Gormley did a beautiful job of summing up that line: Wilson Valdez 10 pitches, 5 strikes; J.C. Romero 16 pitches, 4 strikes.

Friends, this all happened -- in actual life. You can't make this stuff up.