OAKLAND (CBS/AP) — Josh Reddick rushed out of the ballpark, more eager than ever to get home from yet another extra-long work day.
Extra innings, that is. And a lot of them.
Who could blame Reddick for his swift departure? He had played the equivalent of a day-night doubleheader, minus the break in between. Oakland teammate Brandon Moss followed closely behind en route to the Coliseum exit Thursday night after a 3-2 victory in 18 innings over the New York Yankees that gave the A’s a hard-earned series sweep.
Clubs across the major leagues have been going the distance this year in some memorable, downright exhausting performances from coast to coast.
There were three extra-innings games Thursday alone – each lasting at least 13 innings – to bring the season total to 110.
”Is a lunar eclipse coming?” Reddick quipped. ”I have no idea. Probably more of a coincidence than anything. That’s how the game goes sometimes.”
The topic of extra innings has been trending on Twitter, often with the hash tag freebaseball. Yes, many fans are getting far more baseball bang for their buck, despite being drowsy at work the next day.
The Marlins and Mets played for 20 innings – and 6 hours, 25 minutes – last Saturday in New York, the same day the Blue Jays needed nearly 5 1/2 hours to beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 in 18 innings at home in Toronto.
On Thursday, the AL West-leading Athletics remarkably won their second game this year of 18 or more innings. Oakland outlasted the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels in 19 innings on April 29, a game that ended at 1:41 a.m. on the West Coast.
The game time of 6 hours, 32 minutes, wasn’t far off from the time it would have taken for the Angels to return from the Bay Area to Orange County by car. Depending on traffic, of course.
There also was that wild 7-5, 16-inning win by the Chicago White Sox in Seattle last week. It went 5 hours, 42 minutes, and featured the teams combining for 10 runs and 10 hits in the 14th inning alone after the game was scoreless through nine.
Of the 110 extra-innings games played this season through Thursday, 14 had gone 14 or more innings. That was tied for the most 14-plus-inning games in any season through June 13 since 1920, according to STATS.
There were also 14 such games in 1976 and 1983. Since 1920, the 110 extra-inning games are second-most at this stage of the season behind 114 in 2011.
The A’s sure seem to have a knack for going long.
”Fortunately, we’re coming out on top of them,” Reddick said of Oakland, which has five walk-off wins after leading the majors with 14 last season.
Those victories sometimes come with a price, though.
After that 10-8, 19-inning win over the Angels, Oakland put three players on the disabled list – all with injuries sustained in the game: center fielder Coco Crisp, lefty starter Brett Anderson and outfielder Chris Young.
Yankees catcher Chris Stewart stayed in the game Thursday even after a hard collision at the plate to save a run in the 15th inning, and long after his body began telling him he had been down in a crouch for far too long.
”The energy was there because it was an exciting game,” Stewart said. ”I started feeling a little sore there toward the end. After the 15th I think everybody was running on fumes, trying to do everything they could to win the game.”
Many of this season’s marathon games have sent team travel secretaries scrambling to adjust schedules.
In Thursday’s 5-hour, 35-minute game between the Yankees and A’s – longest with a daytime first pitch in Oakland Coliseum history – four of the 14 pitchers went more than five innings. That included winner Jesse Chavez, who tossed 5 2-3 scoreless innings of relief. New York’s Adam Warren pitched six extra innings of shutout relief.
”There’s nothing easy about it,” said Oakland’s John Jaso, who started the tiebreaking rally and scored the winning run.
In all, 510 pitches were thrown and 137 batters came to the plate. In the long Marlins-Mets and Angels-A’s games, it was 156 batters.
”You know, all of a sudden now you’re in the 12th or 13th inning and you have nobody to pinch-hit if somebody gets hurt or somebody goes down,” Mets manager Terry Collins said Friday, reflecting back to the 20-inning game. ”But then you’ve got to say, ‘Hey, here’s a chance in the ninth inning to win,’ so you might have to use the guy that you don’t really want to. But, you know, I don’t think anybody prepares to go 18 or 20 innings, I can tell you that.”
Indeed, managers and players can hardly anticipate the grueling effort it takes to get through extra, extra innings – not to mention all the moves and substitutions that end up getting made.
”I don’t think you ever think about anything more than, you know, 10, 11 innings. Other than that, then you’ve got to start ad-libbing and seeing what’s going on and understanding what you have in your bullpen,” said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team beat Cincinnati 6-5 in 14 innings Thursday – the longest game at Wrigley Field since May 8, 2007.
”You don’t really plan on it, you just wing it when it gets 13, 14 innings.”
The A’s became the first American League team to play two 18-inning games in one season since Oakland and the Washington Senators did so in 1971.
The Yankees stranded 11 of their 13 baserunners from the 10th through 14th innings, when they missed scoring opportunities in each of those frames.
”Pitching’s really good, and it’s hard to score runs,” Moss said. ”You’re seeing a lot of fresh arms coming out of the bullpen, and the later in the game you get, you’re getting tired. I feel like almost all extra-inning games happen on day games, because you’re starting to wear down toward the end of the game, they’re bringing in fresh arms and the offense just shuts down.”
The Mariners lost a 14-inning game to Detroit in April, then beat Texas in 13 innings in May. Seattle also has played five 10-inning games.
Might there be more long baseball this weekend when the Mariners play at Oakland?
The AL West-leading A’s were 41-27 heading into Friday night’s series opener. How many regulars will be recovered by then from the 18-inning affair a day earlier remained to be seen.
”By that time it was, basically, a game of attrition,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. ”After the 15th or 16th, you’re delirious. We had guys playing out of position at the end of the game. Derek Norris caught the whole game and he was still running as hard as he could to first base and blocking two-strike balls in the dirt. All I had to do was sit there.”