On Monday night, Arizona Diamondbacks fans got a special treat when one of the great players in franchise history, Paul Goldschmidt, returned to Chase Field for the first time with the St. Louis Cardinals and hit a home run.
On Tuesday night, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks treated them to not only the longest game in the ballpark’s history but one of the longest in Major League history.
Over six hours and 53 minutes, winding through 48 strikeouts and enough players to form a football team, Arizona finally defeated the Cardinals 3-2 in 19 innings.
“Weren’t able to bring it home,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I can’t applaud the effort any more by the group of guys out there. Talk about laying it out there. Good gravy. You can’t ask for anything more. … Score two runs in 19 innings, you’d like to have more offense.”
The final pitch was thrown shortly before 2 a.m. Hopefully, everyone got a good night’s sleep because the teams were playing again Wednesday afternoon.
“Clearly their not in great shape either,” said Shildt. “We’ve got some guys. We’ll be able to field a club. We’ll be alright.”
Of course, it wasn’t the longest game in MLB history. The Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves played 26 innings in 1920. The White Sox and Brewers (1984), Mets and Cardinals (1974) played 25. And there were a number of others that last at least 20.
And yet, there was a sense that it might never end, especially for some players. Consider the exhausting evening experienced by Cardinals catcher Yadina Molina. He caught every inning, each of the 273 pitches thrown by 11 pitchers used by his team.
“It was fun,’’ said Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed. “We got the win. It was a lot more fun for us than them. …It felt like 30 hours out there, to be honest. Seven hours or whatever. Just glad we’re done.’’
Thanks to the expanded rosters, 53 players appeared (30 by Arizona) including 24 pitchers who made 576 pitchers.
They combined for 48 strikeouts (25 by Arizona) which tied a Major League record. Only twice before had both pitching staffs in one game each recorded at least 21 strikeouts. The Cubs and Yankees also combined to fan 48 on May 7, 2017.
The marathon finally lost its steam when IIdemaro Vargas hit a two-out, bases-loaded single to left in the bottom of the 19th. The Diamondbacks, by then likely numb, engaged in the accustomed postgame frivolity at the plate.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Vargas became the first player since the RBI became official in 1920 to drive in a game-tying run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in the 19th inning or later of the same game.
“I think we were all delirious,’’ D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.
Thanks to the length of the game, both managers were forced to improvise once their rosters became depleted. For example, Lovullo planned to put Vargas in to pitch in the 20th inning with Robbie Ray, the Arizona starter who had just pinch-hit in the 19th inning, taking over left field.
“I was so excited, just pumped up,’’ said Vargas. “I actually never pitched at the Major League or minor-league level.”
Vargas, who entered the game in the ninth, had tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off lefty Andrew Miller.
Hours before the conclusion, the night’s highlight appeared to be the pitching of Cardinals starter, Jack Flaherty. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Flaherty has been the best pitcher in the game since the All-Star break. His ERA since is 0.97. Over the last two months, his ERA is 0.84 ERA in 10 starts with 94 strikeouts in 75 innings.
The only runs the Cardinals scored came on solo homers, the first by Dexter Fowler in the top of the first, the last on Goldschmidt’s 13th-inning blast.
Once the ballpark emptied out, you could hear everything that was being said (or yelled) on the playing field. The media likened it to a pep rally, each side taking turns exhorting their teammates on.
“About the 12th or 13th inning, we just started to get into another zone. I think it added energy to what was going on,” said Lovullo. “The effort these guys gave today for 19 innings is something that will stand out to me. The team that we’re playing (the Cardinals) is in a pennant race and we just didn’t shut down. We had plenty of opportunities to feel sorry for ourselves and we didn’t.”