Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Longest Game

Ortiz watches his go-ahead home run leave the yard (Yahoo)
By late afternoon/early evening on the east coast, assuming they don't play another extraordinarily long game, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will have played the equivalent of three baseball games in under 24 hours. As someone who's done so--albeit with seven inning games--in college, I can tell you it's not fun. Baseball may not be the most physically punishing sport, but it still gives your body a beating.

Alas, that's what happens when you decide to play an impromptu doubleheader the night before an afternoon game. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees met for the first time of the season yesterday at Yankee Stadium, and for roughly seven hours they were about as evenly matched as two teams can be. The Red Sox ultimately outlasted their rivals, prevailing 6-5 thanks to a timely sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts in the top of the 19th.

While this  rivalry is known for its marathon games, last night's 19-inning affair took the cake. Including a 16 minute delay cause by a power outage, it took seven hours and five minutes to complete. It was the longest game time-wise in Red Sox history. It was the longest game time-wise in Yankees history.

John Farrell and Joe Girardi were constantly re-arranging their lineup cards as they emptied their bullpens and benches, deploying 17 pitchers and 25 position players between them. Pinch hitters and runners came and went. A brigade of relievers contributed innings before Boston settled on Steven Wright and New York leaned on Esmil Rogers to see them through. The two sides combined for 32 hits, 14 walks, and 28 strikeouts.

While the game was insufferably long, it was anything but boring. It had a game-saving home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth by Chase Headley to send the game into extras. It had another game-tying blast in the bottom of the 16th by Mark Teixeiraafter David Ortiz put Boston ahead in the top of the frame with a moon shot of his own. It had baserunning blunders, perfect throws, floating knuckleballs, timely hits, and too many missed opportunities to count. And it ended on a beautifully turned double play by Xander Bogaerts (who gloved a hard shot up the middle by Garrett Jones that would have gone through had Bogaerts not shifted), Dustin Pedroia (who threw across his body, leaping to avoid the slide of former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury), and Mike Napoli (nice catch)--the only one Boston turned all night.

Last night's game was an instant classic, the kind these two teams tend to produce so frequently. Though I found myself wishing for the game to end several times (a man's gotta sleep), and grew increasingly frustrated as the Red Sox blew lead after lead, I'm glad I stayed up for it. Those are the kinds of games you don't forget. I still remember staying up for a 16-inning Sox-Rays duel during the 2011 season (Boston won that battle, but lost the war). Baseball fans watch so many games every year that they inevitably blur together, but I'm damn sure I won't forget this one.

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