Juan Perez did two things Friday night he had never done in 14 seasons of professional baseball.
Strike out the side on nine pitches. And win a major-league baseball game.
Perez, a 32-year-old journeyman pitching in just his third game as a Phillie, was the improbable winning pitcher Friday night in the Phillies 10-inning 3-2 win over the Braves in Game 1 of their three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
Perez fanned Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and Wilkin Ramirez on nine pitches in the top of the 10th, then became a winning pitcher for the first time when Raul Ibanez ended the game in the bottom of the 10th with his 11th home run of the season, a line shot to right.
Perez became the first major-league pitcher with a nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning in extra innings since Aug. 22, 1923, when Hollis Thurston of the White Sox fanned Beauty McGowan, Chick Galloway and Sammy Hale in the 12th inning of a game against the Philadelphia Athletics at Comiskey Park that Thurston lost in the 13th. He's the first ever to do it in extra innings and win the game.
He's also the first to fan three Braves on nine pitches since Oct. 5, 1914, when Pat Ragan of the Brooklyn Robins struck out Possum Whitted, Butch Schmidt and Red Smith in the eighth inning second game of a double-header, a 9-5 loss to the Braves at Ebbets Field.
That was impressive, said Michael Stutes, who pitched a scoreless eighth. Nine pitches, three strikeouts I dont think Ive ever seen that. It was a big situation to come in and punch out three good hitters like that.
With the win, the Phillies boosted their lead over the Braves in the NL East to 3 games with two more to come before the All-Star break.
First major-league victory, of course Im excited and pumped up, Perez said through translator Juan Samuel. I thought that if I stayed in the game, at some point it was going to happen. Im happy that it happened here.
Perez is now with his sixth major-league organization. He came up with the Red Sox in 1998 and also spent time with the Mets, Pirates, Braves and Dodgers before joining the Phils this past off-season.
Although hes pitched more than 700 minor-league innings, his only previous major-league experience before this year was 24 games with the Pirates in 2006 and 2007. He went 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA with Pittsburgh.
When the Phillies placed Jose Contreras on the disabled list with a right forearm strain on June 23, they recalled Perez from Triple A Lehigh Valley. Hes now pitched 2 13 hitless and scoreless innings in three games with the Phillies.
With Contreras, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge all on the DL and David Herndon and Danys Baez struggling, Perez should get a chance to continue proving he can pitch at this level.
Manager Charlie Manuel said Perez would have come out and pitched the 11th if the Phillies hadnt won in the 10th.
He was nasty, Ibanez said. He was breaking off some nasty sliders and throwing the ball hard.
Manuel said he was impressed with Perezs stuff in spring training but not his command.
His command wasnt what you would call real good, Manuel said. But hes got good stuff. Good fastball, and his breaking ball is real good. ...
Good effort. Big effort.
Perez has never had great control. He averaged 3.9 walks per nine innings in his minor-league career and walked 11 batters in 18 career innings in the majors. He walked 20 in 30 23 innings at Lehigh Valley this year.
Im trying to focus more on situations in the game, he said. In spring training, I really didnt know what to expect, but now that Im here Im more focused.
Perez became the second Phillie in history to strike out the side on nine pitches and the first since Andy Ashby fanned Hal Morris, Todd Benzinger and Jeff Reed in the fourth inning of the Phillies 3-1 loss to the Reds at the Vet on June 15, 1991.
He's the 43rd pitcher in major-league history to strike out the side on nine pitches.
Strangely, Mike Ondo the Phillies director of pro scouting attended that game in 1991 as a 15-year-old fan, and Ondo is the guy who signed Perez to a minor-league deal this offseason.
Perezs appearance Friday night was his first in exactly two weeks since he pitched to one batter in a win over the Athletics on June 24.
I work hard trying to stay sharp mentally, he said. Im thankful for the opportunity Im getting. Its not a lot, but Im staying ready and studying the game.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org