And he looked the part. He looked like an infielder who had been handed the ball. One of his first pitches went wide to the backstop--he was not crisp. But he settled in, and one could slowly see the kid emerge, as the fantasy that happened to be real unfolded. He became the Dominican youth channelling Pedro Martinez, the Dominican legend who himself spent a few fading months in a Phillies uniform. Wilson and Pedro. Similar slight build. Right handers.
He was a bit shaky at first, facing reigning National League MVP Joey Votto. His first batter as a major league pitcher. But Valdez was inhaling the wonder of the moment. A few pitches in, he shakes off the sign from Dane Sardinha. Hard to imagine what he was shaking off, actually. The 86 mile an hour fastball or the 88 mile an hour fastball. Perhaps he was clearing his head, checking to see if he was really there.
But then, Valdez settled in. The outcome was never in doubt. It never is in those situations. Who misses that shot at the buzzer when you are a kid?
Valdez showed no fear. He was facing the heart of the order. He gave in to his inner Pedro, ceded his Dominican soul to his childhood hero. He peered in to Jay Bruce. Bruce, the powerful slugger, leading the National League in home runs.
Really, could it get any better this? First, the league MVP goes down. Next, he hits Rolen. Now he is facing down Bruce?
So he drops down, wheels in from the side. Pure Pedro. His teammates are in awe.
He is feeling it. He is dealing. Bruce takes him deep, but not deep enough. Flies out the the warning track in deep center.
If you weren't watching, it all ended in the bottom of the 19th. Phillies scored, and won 5-4.
The long night ended. Finally, Rashi got her walk. And Wilson Valdez became the first player since Babe Ruth to start a game in the field and win it on the mound.