Friday night was the wildest night of the 2013 baseball season to date. But nothing, and I do mean nothing, was crazier or more entertaining than the 18-innings marathon played at Tropicana Field.
The Tampa Bay Rays eventually escaped the mayhem with a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles thanks to David DeJesus' walk-off single, but not before an MLB record 21 pitchers were used. That broke the previous record of 20, which has occurred twice. The most recent was on Aug. 24 in when the Diamondbacks and Phillies played 19 innings.
The Rays tied a single game record by using 11 pitchers, including their scheduled starter on Sunday Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson would earn the win with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Bud Norris, typically a starter for Baltimore, took the loss and was one of only three relievers in the game to be scored upon. In fact, neither team plated a run from Ben Zobrist's seventh inning RBI single until the game-winner crossed in the 18th. That covered a span of 81 batters, or nine trips through an entire lineup.
Prior to the game, Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, who delivered the walk-off hit in their 12-inning win over Texas on Wednesday, was scratched from the lineup with stiffness in his neck. He ended up playing a full game anyway after entering in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter. He also scored the winning run.
The time of the game was six hours, 54 minutes, which set a new time record for the Orioles, Rays and Tropicana Field. 18 innings is also a new record for the Rays, and it's the fifth time we've seen a game of at least that length this season. The last time that happened was 1972 when there were six such games.
There's still plenty of time to surpass that mark in 2013. Don't bet against it.
About the only oddity this game didn't possess was a position player pitching. September call ups took care of that issue for both managers.
September call ups also supplied both dugouts with plenty of bored players searching desperately for ways to entertain themselves.
A wookie showed up in the Rays dugout. Because why wouldn't a wookie show up in the Rays dugout? Honestly.
So did Gene Simmons.
There's a reason it's called weird baseball once the clock strikes midnight.
Did I really just see this on my TV or is my mind playing tricks at 2:08 am? pic.twitter.com/vj3Xyt0suU
— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) September 21, 2013
To their credit, both teams handled the game as best they could under the circumstances. With a quick turnaround on Saturday (1:05 pm first pitch locally), however, both will be severely tested both mentally and physically. That's especially true for Baltimore, who falls to 2 1/2 games behind Tampa in the wild card. The Rays, on the other hand, maintained their half-game lead on Cleveland while opening up a full game lead on Texas.