Just hours after the New York Mets recalled rookie Jordany Valdespin, the infielder collected his first Major League hit, a three-run, game-winning home run off of Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Yes, Virginia, there is indeed a Santa Claus.
Valdespin was signed by former Mets GM Omar Minaya on June 6, 2007. He made his Major League debut on April 23rd of this season and made his first start on April 26th against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down on Sunday but was recalled after the Mets placed Ruben Tejada on the 15-Day DL. In his first six at-bats, Valdespin had yet to collect a hit. However, last night, manager Terry Collins called on Valdespin to pinch-hit for reliever Tim Byrdak.
The Mets were down to their final out. Papelbon entered the game without allowed a run over his last nine appearances and retired the last 18 batters he had faced. The first batter, Daniel Murphy extended Papelbon’s streak to 19 straight hitters retired. Then, Ike Davis drew a walk. Justin Turner then went down on strikes, bringing up Mike Nickeas who was replacing Josh Thole who left the game after a collision at home plate with Ty Wigginton. Nickeas doubled, moving Davis to third. It was now Valedspin’s turn. Top of the 9th, the score tied at 2, the go-ahead runs at second and third. Papelbon immediately jumped ahead to an 0-1 count with a fastball on the outside corner. The next pitch Papelbon left out over the plate and Valdespin swung.
The ball sailed over Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence and into the stands, 402 feet away from home plate. As Valdespin rounded the bases he began pumping his fist. He moved swiftly around the bases as if he were trying to get to home plate before he awoke from his dream. As he crossed home plate, Valdespin pointed to the sky before heading to the Mets dugout.
The jubilant Mets team awaited Valdespin at the top step of the dugout, pounding fists, slapping hands and backs. They had taken a 5-2 lead off of one of the better closers in the game who came in for Roy Halladay, one of the best pitchers in the game. Three more outs separated the Mets from a big victory over one of the teams that have tormented them over the past few seasons. No one victory could erase those years of suffering but this was as close as it could be for the moment.
After Mets closer Frank Francisco retired the Phillies in order in the bottom of the ninth the Mets celebrated in the clubhouse. Valdespin was showered with beer as his teammates made it appear as if they had just won the World Series. Reporters flocked to Valdespin’s locker, anxious to get a quote from New York baseball’s newest hero. Valdespin wasn’t dreaming. He had just gotten his first big league hit, a game-winning home run off of Jonathan Papelbon. The fairy tale had become reality, at least for this night.