December 11, 2013
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Friday, June 14, 2013
Athletics 3, Yankees 2: Looking at the Yankees side of the box score and noting Robinson Cano's contributions compared to everyone else's and this comes to mind. Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells combined to go 0 for 28 with 12 strikeouts in this marathon game. And while, yes, hats off to the A's staff for 17 consecutive scoreless innings, fact is that the Yankees offense has been absolutely terrible of late. They're 19th in runs scored, 23rd in batting average, 22nd in on-base percentage and 21st in slugging percentage in all of baseball.
Cardinals 2, Mets 1: It's a shame, really, that Matt Harvey just doesn't know how to win. Perhaps he can ask Adam Wainwright how he gets his team to score some runs for him.
Orioles 5, Red Sox 4: It's not often that a 13 inning game is the third longest of the day, but that's yesterday for you. The Orioles won despite leaving 16 runners on base and going 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Thirteen pitchers were used between the two clubs in the first of a four-game series. So this one should be fun to watch this weekend.
Cubs 6, Reds 5: This one went 14, and the Cubs finally broke the Reds' Wrigley Field winning streak. The Cubs bullpen racked up 13 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings.
Royals 10, Rays 1: Elliott Johnson hit a three-run homer and was 3 for 4 overall against his old club. Ervin Santana allowed but an unearned run in seven and two-thirds. Jeremy Hellickson? Five and two-thirds, 10 hits, eight runs. More like Jeremy Shellackison, amirite?
Nationals 5, Rockies 4: Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler drive the Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler each left yesterday's game with injuries. So, yeah. Tulowitzki is going to miss four to six weeks. This could be the end of the frisky portion of the Rockies' season. Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman homered, doubled and drove in three runs and Ian Desmond got four hits.
Blue Jays 3, Rangers 1: Yu Darvish and Esmil Rogers each allowed one run in seven innings. Edwin Encarnacion's two-run double in the eighth broke the tie.
Giants 10, Pirates 0: Matt Cain: much better these days. He threw six and two-thirds scoreless innings and wasn't wanting for run support. Hunter Pence drove in three and is hitting .296/.341/.518 on the year.
Phillies 3, Twins 2: Ben Revere went 4 for 6 and Cliff Lee did nothing to stop the "oh man someone should trade for him at the deadline" stuff, allowing two runs in seven innings.
It happened again. Not twice on the same day like last Saturday, as I wrote about very soon afterward, but once is notable enough. A baseball game went 18 innings Thursday, this time in Oakland as the A's staggered past the Yankees, 3-2.
My theory is that the rash of no-hitters over the last few years became passe. The baseball gods needed something fresh to keep themselves amused. That's why the no-no spigot has been turned off—had you noticed the absence yet?—and the marathon game floodgates have opened. As analytical theories go, its saving grace is that it makes as much sense as anything else at this point.
For those keeping score at home, that is four 18-plus inning baseball games this season, and three in the span of six days. Four marathons in a year isn't that uncommon, and I'll go over the instances in a bit. As for three such games in less than a week, it's hard to say when that's last happened, since comprehensive records go back only to 1916. (Unless Baseball-Reference has updated while I've been typing this sentence. Lemme check. Nope.) The best guess is, "never." The closest on record is a stretch from Aug. 1 to 10, 1972*.
* One of the games, White Sox vs. A's, was suspended after 17 innings and completed the next day, Aug. 11. Close enough. Oh, and the Phillies-Mets game was the opener of a double-header. The starters for the nightcap both went the distance—like it or not!
This season is currently tied for the fourth most marathon games (that's my term for 18-plus inning affairs, and I'm sticking with it) ever. Six other seasons are recorded as having had four: 1969, 1971, 1973, 1984, 1985 and 2006. (Note that those are all well into the expansion era.) Two seasons are tied for second at six games apiece, 1918 and 1972, the former being more impressive for having just 16 teams available churn out all those double-your-pleasure contests.
The big year, though, is 1967. An amazing nine games went 18 innings or longer that year. The New York Yankees and Washington Senators each had to play three, though the wrung-out Yanks had the pleasure of beating the arch-rival Red Sox in two of them. New York's third was a loss to the Twins. If the last days of that storied pennant race had turned out differently, we might still be speaking today of how New York's performance in marathon games turned the whole season and handed Minnesota the flag.
The benchmark set in 1967 is within reach this season. Only around two-fifths of the games have been played so far. If this pace is maintained—all regression warnings do apply here—we'd end up with a total of 10 marathons. It's worth noting, however, that the record was set with 20 teams in the majors rather than 30, thus only two-thirds as many games available to play. If we want to beat the marathon-per-game pace of '67, we'd need to see 14 before the final out of the year.
I'm not sure about you, but I don't think I could stand the strain.
Two notes before closing. First, the visiting Yankees once again did in this situation what visiting teams always seem to do in extra-inning affairs. They held out their closer, inning after inning, waiting for his save opportunity. Thus, we were treated to the spectacle of Adam Warren pitching six innings deep into extras for the Yankees before Mariano Rivera even got a sniff of the mound.
The irony here is that the Yankees would lose the game with Mariano on the mound. Not that he technically lost it: the winning run was already on base when Joe Girardi finally let him go out to play. Someone should have checked his freshness dating: "Best if used before 16th inning."
Second, this spate of marathon games really should get our readers to go back and look over my article last year analyzing the effect that such games have on the teams that play them, win or lose. With all the added material I'm getting this season, I may be revisiting the subject before very long.
Of course, we may all be revisiting the subject before long, if those bothersome baseball gods have anything to say about it. Perfect games are out; 18-inning games are in!
50 years ago today was one of the greatest one-man shows of clutch hitting in baseball history. The athlete didn’t deliver every time he came to the plate, but when he did deliver, boy of boy was it ever important and well-timed. And it didn’t hurt that he got such a ton of opportunities.
On June 14, 1963, the Cleveland Indians hosted the Washington Senators in a doubleheader. The first game was an utterly unremarkable 5-2 win for the visiting Senators. The fun came in the nightcap.
Early on, it looked like Cleveland would even the day up by waltzing to a win game two of the day’s festivities. Against 23-year-old Washington pitcher Claude Osteen, two of the first three batters reached base. After a second out advanced the lead runner to third, veteran Indians right fielder Willie Kirkland came to the plate.
At age 29, Kirkland was having a rotten season. Major league baseball instituted a new and enlarged strike zone that season, and Kirkland was having trouble adjusting. His power numbers fell in half, from nearly 30 homers to mid-teens. Never great at hitting for average, Kirkland would bat just .230. His pedestrian 1-for-4 showing in the day’s first game was actually a good day for him. But the day would get much better the longer it went on.
Here, Kirkland got good wood on the ball, singling the runner in for a 1-0 Indians lead. Unfortunately, the rally ended there as Osteen struck out the next batter to retire the side—but Washington had not heard the last of Willie Kirkland.
Cleveland pitcher Gus Bell brought his A-game, and made the 1-0 lead hold up for quite awhile, but a solo homer in the sixth tied it, 1-1. And neither team could do much aside from that. Take Kirkland, for instance. He grounded out in the fourth and then fanned in the sixth. He had a nice chance to do some damage in the eighth, coming up with runners on first and second and two out, but grounded out to end the inning.
That’s OK. He’d more than make up for it later.
In fact, Kirkland made up for it with his next at bat, in the bottom of the 11th. By this time Cleveland’s situation was bleak. They still had just the one run Kirkland drove in back in the first, but Washington had just taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the 11th. Actually, Cleveland was lucky it was just 2-1. With two outs and runners on first and second, pinch hitter Dick Phillips unleashed a double that let the first run in—but the trailing run was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. It was damn near 3-1.
But it was still 2-1 when Kirkland came up to lead off the bottom of the inning, just minutes after the dramatic double. Though things looked bleak, Kirkland immediately picked up everyone’s spirits with a solo home run. Now it was 2-2, with Kirkland having both RBIs.
Now the game became a bullpen endurance contest. Neither team could score, and for all his heroics, Kirkland also couldn’t help Cleveland out. When they got a modest rally started in the 13th, he hit into a double play to end the inning. In the 16th he did it again—another double play ground ball. Well, he already had an extra inning homer—that’s enough heroics for one man, right?
Maybe not, because the game kept churning and in the bottom of the 19th Kirkland came up again to lead things off. Against Washington pitcher Jim Coates, Kirkland became one of the few men in baseball history to hit a second extra-inning homer in one game. This one was a walk-off shot, for a 3-2 Indians win. Sure he’d hit into two big double plays, but he’d also smacked two clutch homers and driven in all three Indians runs on the day. Despite his failings, he was the unquestioned hero on the day – and that day was 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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