PHILADELPHIA — It was weird well before the Philadelphia Phillies rightfielder started warming up in the bullpen while still in the lineup. Casper Wells — 0 for 7 with four strikeouts — jogged to the mound at 1:34 a.m. “Let’s go Casper!” the scant fans chanted as Wells, playing for his fifth team in 2013, threw 91 m.p.h.
Wells, one strike away from a scoreless 18th inning, threw Adam Eaton a belt-high fastball. Tony Campana dashed for second on the delivery, and Eaton cracked it into center to score the first run in hours.
And Wells was just the first Phillies position player to pitch.
This 7-hour, 6-minute tragedy, a 12-7 Phillies loss to Arizona, ended at 2:12 a.m. Time after time, the Phillies were denied their fourth straight walk-off victory, a feat that still has never happened in 131 years of this franchise.
The Diamondbacks sent 11 batters to the plate in the 18th against Wells and John McDonald. Interim manager Ryne Sandberg stopped Wells’ nightmare at 40 pitches. He was the losing pitcher and made outs to end the 10th and 16th innings. Sandberg raised his right arm and pointed to McDonald, who sauntered in from left field.
It is remarkable the game even reached that sad point. The Phillies’ starting pitcher, Ethan Martin, failed to record three outs. They trailed by six runs, rallied in the eighth for a dramatic tie, and matched zeroes with Arizona for hours. If management is looking for signs of life under Sandberg, this night offered plenty of evidence.
This was the longest game (by time) in Citizens Bank Park history. The two teams used 44 players. Twenty different arms threw 712 pitches. There were 28 walks. Wells was no Wilson Valdez, although he tossed a scoreless inning earlier this season for the Chicago White Sox. The former college pitcher failed this time.
By using Tyler Cloyd, the Phillies forfeited their scheduled Sunday starter. Instead Roy Halladay will take the mound instead of making a third rehab start in Reading.
Cloyd threw 91 pitches in five scoreless innings. He doubled to begin the 16th but was stranded there and was removed from the game.
The Phillies tied it with four in the eighth. The fans at Citizens Bank Park wanted a curtain call in Game 129, and Darin Ruf obliged. He smashed his hands together when he stomped on first base. He screamed when he touched home plate. He poked his head from the Phillies dugout and waved his helmet.
Ruf blasted his ninth August home run, which tied him with Miguel Cabrera for most in baseball this month. He continues to impress with hopes of winning a permanent job in 2014.
The outfield was dealt a blow when Domonic Brown exited with right heel soreness. He appeared to injure himself during a first-inning at-bat. He was removed after the second inning. The severity was unclear. His quest for 30 home runs qualifies as available drama for the final 33 games.
Before the late-inning zaniness, yet another ferocious comeback overshadowed a miserable start. Martin’s education lasted 19 minutes and 44 pitches Saturday. He allowed three runs. Sandberg fetched his rookie starter, and the energy of three consecutive walk-off victories wilted before the sun set.
Martin’s outing was the shortest not affected by injury or rain for a Phillies starter since J.D. Durbin allowed seven runs on Sept. 1, 2007, without recording an out. Later that month, the Phillies staged a spectacular comeback to win their first of five straight National League East pennants. Those days feel like forever ago.
The rest of the night was spent overcoming Martin’s deficiencies. Sandberg batted Roger Bernadina leadoff in his second Phillies start. He crushed a Randall Delgado fastball into the Phillies bullpen for a solo homer in the sixth. He drew a key walk in the four-run eighth. He doubled in the 11th.
“I want to see him,” Sandberg said before the game. “I want to see what he can do there. I’d love to see him on base four times and watch him run the bases. That would be ideal.”
Carlos Ruiz crushed his fourth homer, delivered a run-scoring single in the eighth, and doubled with two outs in the 18th. Ruiz is hitting .368 in August with a rediscovered power stroke. The impending free agent is restating his case to be Philadelphia’s catcher beyond this season on a regular basis.
Those swings were once thought footnotes because Martin trudged to the dugout at 7:25 p.m. with his face covered by his black glove. Eleven Phillies threw 395 pitches, and the end crept closer by one boundless day.