After what happened Saturday night into Sunday morning in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Giants must feel like they won not one, but two games and the National League Division Series. That's because they played 18 innings—tied for the longest game in postseason history—and won 2-1, eliminating just about all hope the Washington Nationals have of advancing, thanks to two players in particular.
Many will point to Brandon Belt as the hero for hitting a long solo home run off Tanner Roark—the ninth pitcher the Nationals used—in the top of the 18th to finally, mercifully bring an end to the longest playoff game ever in terms of time. But the first baseman shares that honor with right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, who came on in the 12th inning and threw six scoreless frames to get the win.
Yet again, two of the unheralded, lesser-known Giants came through to give them a 10th straight victory in the postseason—tied for the third-most ever—and put them up two games to none on the Nationals in a best-of-five series that's now headed to San Francisco.
"We're just happy to get out alive and get back to San Francisco," Belt said afterward on the televised broadcast. "We battled our butts off today. It's freakin' awesome. I'm just glad it ended up in our favor."
Indeed it did, but it took all of six hours and 23 minutes to get there, surpassing the 18-inning—but "only" five-hour, 50-minute—epic Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS in which the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves.
|Longest Postseason Games By Time in MLB History|
|DATE||ROUND||GAME||WINNING TEAM||LOSING TEAM||SCORE||INNINGS||TIME|
|10/4/14||NLDS||2||Giants||Nationals||2-1||18||6 hours, 23 minutes|
|10/9/05||NLDS||4||Astros||Braves||7-6||18||5 hours, 50 minutes|
|10/18/04||ALCS||5||Red Sox||Yankees||5-4||14||5 hours, 49 minutes|
|10/17/99||NLCS||5||Mets||Braves||4-3||15||5 hours, 46 minutes|
|10/25/2005||WS||3||White Sox||Astros||7-5||14||5 hours, 41 minutes|
This game, which started right around 5:40 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 4, actually concluded just after midnight on Sunday, Oct. 5. In all, 41 total players took the field, including 17 pitchers, who threw 487 pitches.
A big reason why it took so long was that Giants pitchers simply refused to allow a run over the final 15 innings. Much of that was due to Petit, who permitted just four baserunners on one hit and three walks in his half-dozen innings.
"Petit really saved us tonight with his effort," manager Bruce Bochy said in his postgame press conference. "He was fresh, and he had been starting for us, so we knew he could go for about 80 pitches if we needed it."
Turns out, the Giants needed all 80 of those bullets, as Petit threw exactly that many pitches while registering seven strikeouts along the way.
Arguably the most amazing aspect of this marathon is that San Francisco only led for the final six of the 108 total outs.
The Giants had been completely shut down by Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman, who didn't allow a single run while on the mound for 8.2 innings. But in a wildly second-guessed decision, manager Matt Williams decided his ace's night was done after he walked Joe Panik, the third hitter of the ninth, with his 100th pitch.
Williams brought in closer Drew Storen, who had his share of playoff demons to get past after blowing Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS and ending Washington's season the last time he was on a mound in October.
This time around, Storen allowed a single to Buster Posey and then served up the game-tying run—and very nearly game-winning one, too—on a two-out double by Pablo Sandoval to score Panik from second. Trying to score from first on the play, Posey was thrown out at the plate in a play that was oh-so-close it resulted in a replay review that was upheld.
From there, the game remained tied with relatively little action—perhaps other than Williams and Asdrubal Cabrera getting ejected in the bottom of the 10th for arguing balls and strikes—until Belt decided it was finally time to put an end to the record-setting, practically never-ending battle and go home.
That's just what the Giants will do now, as they return to San Francisco feeling fresh and looking for a sweep of a deflated, exhausted Nationals team—the No. 1 seed in the NL—that has to face ace Madison Bumgarner in Game 3 on Monday. All the left-hander did his last time out was twirl a complete-game four-hit shutout to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game last Wednesday.
The Giants will hope to take the series from the Nationals and starter Doug Fister, who has gone 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA in his postseason career.
While Bumgarner was the hero in that one, the label belongs to Belt and Petit for their roles in Game 2 of what has been an NLDS marked by two one-run contests—and two Giants wins.
Playoff series don't get much tighter than this Giants-Nationals matchup so far. And after Game 2, it's safe to say, they don't get a lot longer, either.
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