The Philadelphia marathon

It’s been a long wait for those of us paying attention—and I realize that roll call may begin and end with me—but the wait is over. There has been another 18-inning game in the majors, the fifth 18-plus-inning game this season but the first in over two months. Last night, the Phillies came back from a 7-1 deficit to tie the Diamondbacks, 7-7, and take the game to extra innings.

A lot of extra innings.

It ended when freshly minted Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, his bullpen drained, sent outfielders Casper Wells and John McDonald to the mound in the 18th. Wells got the first two outs before he apparently remembered what position he really plays, which had a similar effect to Wile E. Coyote looking down and realizing he has just run off the edge of a cliff.

Arizona reeled off five hits and three walks (one intentional) to put up five runs in the inning, and they shut down Philadelphia in the bottom half to win, 12-7.

The game did set a couple of marks, but the one I’d hoped for won’t be one of them. This was the fifth game of the season to go at least 18, and as I noted in a previous THT Live, five is nowhere near the record. The 1967 campaign had nine of them.

Back on June 13, when the Yankees and A’s played 18 in Oakland, it looked possible for 2013 to challenge that standard, but the chase ended faster than Manny Machado ceasing to hit doubles. A burst of four in a month and change is theoretically possible, but there’s no sense in counting on it.

One record—an esoteric one, granted—tied by this game was the biggest margin of victory ever in a game lasting at least 18 innings. (At least going back to 1916, where Baseball-Reference’s records currently start.) The game it tied was Cubs at Braves on May 14, 1927. Just like the D-backs, Chicago put up a five-spot in the 18th to carry the day.

(The really crazy part? Three days later, the same two teams would play a 22-inning game. The really, really crazy part? Bob Smith would pitch all 22 innings for Boston. And lose.)

There have been just four marathon games won by a four-run margin, the most recent on April 27, 1984, when Cleveland beat Detroit, 8-4 in 19 frames. Somehow, the Tigers recovered from the exhaustion to resume their record 35-5 opening stretch of the season and win the World Series.

All of those big-margin marathons were, for semi-obvious reasons, won by the visitors. The biggest winning margin for a home team in a marathon is three. There has never been an 18-inning game won on a walk-off grand slam, even though the stubborn fans still remaining deserved such fireworks for their devotion.

There’s another record that this game beat—two, in fact—and it’s not particularly close. Phillies pitchers (plus the two outfielders) threw a total of 395 pitches on the night. That is the highest total ever recorded for a baseball game, and it shatters the record.

The previous mark was 345, thrown by the Kansas City Royals on June 6, 1991, in a 4-3, 18-inning win over the Texas Rangers. Throw in the 317 pitches that the D-backs threw, and you have a combined 712, which is also a major-league record.

Granted, these are records for the highest pitch counts ever recorded. Reliable accounts for this statistic do not go back very far. One certainly can imagine that some super-marathons of the deep past, like the record 26-inning 1-1 tie between Brooklyn and Boston in 1920, could have broken the marks set by Philadelphia and Arizona.

Then again, with much less emphasis in that era on working the count and tiring out the opposing hurler, Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger may have been efficient enough to come in short.

And while we’re in the area, I’ll also credit Philadelphia with another record: the most strikes pitched in a game, 223. This one’s not nearly a blowout like the pitch record. The Houston Astros pitched 218 strikes in a 22-inning contest against the Dodgers on June 3, 1989. And, not to rub salt in Phillies’ fans wounds, Houston won their game. (Ow! What’s that stinging?)

The bullpen blowout has had one effect greater than giving me something to write about on a Sunday. Tyler Cloyd was supposed to get the start for the Phillies Sunday afternoon, but he got thrown into the breach to toss five innings of shutout relief Saturday night/Sunday morning. Instead, returning from a rehab stint in the minors sooner than anyone expected, it will be Roy Halladay.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

Doc was supposed to start for Reading in Double-A today after two previous rehab starts that, frankly, were not encouraging. I would go into what this could mean for the recovery of this erstwhile ace, or for the team that’s hurrying him back into the rotation to fill this sudden hole while they play out the string, but I haven’t the time.

First pitch for the Phils is in about half an hour as I write. The drama just continues.

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A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.

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You’re right, it is estimated that Cadore and Oeschger threw only 654 pitches.