Baseball for breakfast

Despite the drawback of most games being shown in the wee small hours, watching live Major League Baseball from the UK does actually offer a couple of advantages. One is the ability to watch day games live in the evening, with the first pitch typically being thrown somewhere between 6pm and 9:15pm UK time. The other is that, every so often, there will be a game still going on at breakfast time.

Today there was one such game.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Boston Red Sox this morning concluded a 19-inning marathon at around 12:40 a.m. Pacific time (8:40 a.m. in the UK), the Angels winning 5–4. In terms of innings, it was the longest MLB game played so far this season, and at six-and-a-half hours was the longest game ever played at Angel Stadium.

Much earlier in the game, while I was still very much in the land of nod, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia broke up a no-hit bid by Angels starter Garrett Richards in the seventh inning. In the 14th frame, Pedroia nabbed two bases in one play: having successfully stolen second base, and with the Angels infielders playing a shift, he continued on to third base, which nobody was covering.

Mike Trout twice tied the game for the Angels, one of them a home run. Over tea and cornflakes, I managed to catch the last two innings of the game and saw Albert Pujols hit the walk-off home run that finally put an end to proceedings.

Playing games of 18 innings or more is the equivalent of two games in one. The one word that comes to mind when you see these types of contests is “why?”. Most of the fans will have gone home by the end, leaving an almost empty stadium to bear witness to the game’s conclusion. The players will experience extra fatigue and won’t be properly rested for the next day’s game (particularly when that is a day game with just a few hours turnaround). Having used up most—if not all—of their relief pitchers, the bullpens of the two teams will be severely stretched for the next few games, and it could be argued that even winning the marathon game is not sufficient compensation for that unwanted side-effect.

Given that one game out of 162 represents around only 0.6% of the schedule, it would be logical (in the regular season at least) to play perhaps one extra inning and if the scores are still level, call it a draw (tie).

But baseball is not always about the logical. It is often about the anomalous, the absurd, the downright bizarre. Who wouldn’t want to see Orioles infielder Chris Davis get a win as a pitcher a couple of years ago after going 0-for-8 at the plate? More recently, who didn’t enjoy Cubs backup catcher John Baker getting three outs in the top of the 16th inning and then crossing home plate for the winning run in the bottom of the inning? And who could fail to appreciate the comedy pitching of Adam Dunn just a few days ago?

OK, so the last one wasn’t an extra inning game but with the White Sox getting battered 16–0 by the Rangers, it probably felt like it.

All in all, those long extra inning games are tortuous, gruelling, wonderful and wacky. Despite all the changes in the modern game, it seems to be one baseball tradition that is here to stay. I guess I had better stock up on cornflakes.

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