The Phillies owed Roy Halladay a win or three and last night began the repayment process by eking out a 5-4 win over Milwaukee.
Uncharacteristically, Halladay left too many balls up and the Brewers pounded four solo home runs off the big right-hander, the first time in his career he'd surrendered that many round trippers in a single outing. Fortunately, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth answered the Brewers' bashers in kind and Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez scored on the same sacrifice fly and error in the seventh inning to provide the winning margin.
When the final story of this season is written, Ruiz and Valdez must receive serious consideration for sharing the MVP prize. Chooch's hitting has been a pleasant surprise all season. His defense and handling of the staff come as no surprise. Valdez, on the other hand, is the single most pleasant surprise of the year. When he was signed the second question everyone asked (number one having no doubt been "Who?") was "Is he going to outhit Eric Bruntlett?" Not only has the answer been a resounding "Yes!" but Valdez has fielded his three positions brilliantly and run the bases superbly.
No one ever expected this guy was going to start more than a handful of games, but he has appeared in 88 games thus far, mostly subbing for Polanco, Rollins and Utley as each of them went down with injuries; and when all of them returned, he resumed his spot on the bench only to receive the very occasional call. Last night was one of these and he responded in a bunt situation with men on first and second by drawing a walk. After Jimmy Rollins hit into a fielder's choice, the out being recorded a home, Valdez raced from second base behind Ruiz on a sacrifice fly when the ball got away from the catcher. It was a heads up play typical of his performance throughout the season. In this case, he scored the winning run.
More and more the Phillies are looking like a team destined for the post-season. Winning 1-0 one night while only getting four hits and scoring two on a sacrifice fly and error are the kind of outcomes reserved for team's working magic.
That, of course, and the fact that I still haven't used my Beerleaguer mug.