The Red Sox and Yankees played a seven-hour, 19-inning game last night. It was everything there is to love about baseball.
If you didn’t stay up for it, first of all, you are a smarter man than I. Second, you missed one of baseball’s best little quirks – the marathon, never-ending game. The Red Sox and Yankees squared off last night for the first time in 2015, with first pitch at 7:10pm. The Red Sox won, 6-5, with the last pitch coming shortly after 2:00am, Saturday morning. It was arduous. It was taxing. But mostly, it was awesome, and part of what makes baseball so great.
First, some background. In one paragraph (I hope), here’s what happened:
The Red Sox got to Yankees’ starter Nathan Eovaldi early, scoring three runs in the first six innings to take a 3-0 lead in the Bronx. The Yankees clawed back, scoring two in the sixth inning to get within a run. With two outs in the ninth and Edward Mujica trying to close out the game (rather than the injured Koji Uehara), Chase Headley hit a two-out solo home run to tie the game. The game remained tied until the 16th inning, when David Ortiz hit a go-ahead solo home run. In the bottom of the inning, Mark Teixeira did the same, tying the game once again. Boston scored another run in the top of the 18th inning; New York scored one in the bottom. Boston scored again in the top of the 19th inning, and while New York threatened to tie the game once again, a 6-4-3 double-play off the bat of Garrett Jones ended the affair. Time of game: a cool six hours, 49 minutes (and that doesn’t include a 16-minute delay when the lights went out).
The game, simply put, encapsulated everything that is so great about Major League Baseball. While NHL games go to a shootout, and NFL games can end in a tie if need be, only Major League Baseball (and, technically, the NBA) have the ability for a regular-season game to go on indefinitely. While NBA games can take as many overtimes as necessary, usually one, maybe two, does the trick. In any event, a 15-inning game at least feels a lot more common than a triple-overtime NBA game. And I, for one, love them.
There’s a sense of camaraderie, of community, that comes with powering through a nearly-seven-hour-long game. You see the crowd slowly disappear until only the final thousand or so remain. The game – a meaningless April affair in this case – stops being a baseball game and becomes and event all its own somewhere around inning fifteen. That’s when things get weird.
First, the announcers run out of things to say. They fill time with weird stories, comments about how it’s now the next day once midnight rolls around (they love that) and literally anything they can to fill time. I’m not exaggerating; on the national feed of the game, which unfortunately I was not privy to, Bob Costas began reading Snaffle facts:
On the Red Sox local feed on NESN, local color guy Jerry Remy stopped talking in the last frame, to the point that people became concerned:
If Remy doesn't talk in the next 30 seconds I'm calling 911
— Feitelberg (@FeitsBarstool) April 11, 2015
Seriously, it gets weird. And it’s not just the color guys.
The on-field product starts getting goofy. You have guys pitching three, four, five relief innings in a row. Sometimes (though not last night, alas) you even get a non-pitcher on the mound, the Holy Grail of long baseball games. You get some truly awesome stat lines, like Mike Napoli’s 0-8 affair, or Shane Victorino getting five plate appearances after coming in as a pinch-hitter in the tenth inning. You get a real good sense of both bullpens; the Sox and Yankees used 17 pitchers last night. Mark Teixeira began the game as a 34-year-old and ended it as a 35-year-old. Seriously, the game was awesome.
With each passing inning, you become more and more entertained. I actually saw fans of both teams, probably around the 16th inning, stop hoping to win and instead hoping the game just never ended. You laugh to yourself each time the game appears over, as it did in the ninth, 16th, and 18th innings, only for it to simply keep going and going. You get overtired, maniacally laughing to yourself every time one inning ends and bleeds into the next. You lose your mind a little, but in the best way possible.
Last night, I was lucky enough to get two baseball games for the price of one. All it took was seven hours of my life and the remaining sanity I had left after a long week. At the end of the day, it’s but one win of the Red Sox and one single loss for the Yankees, but the game represented so much more than that. It represented everything there is to love about baseball, everything that separates it from the rest of the major sports. You want pace of play? I want seven-hour, 19-inning affairs that end after 2:00am. Give me baseball or give me death. But for now, just give me a nap, please?