In a game that refused to end, the Baltimore Orioles outlasted the Los Angeles Angels to win 10-8 in 16 innings early Friday morning.
The game, which began at 7:05 p.m. local time on Thursday, lasted six hours and 19 minutes. When it finally ended, it did so on a historic note. With the Orioles out of pitchers, manager Brandon Hyde called on position player Stevie Wilkerson to pitch the 16th inning.
The 27-year-old outfielder answered the call by tossing — or lobbing even — a 1-2-3 inning, which included retiring future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols for the final out.
Because the Orioles were holding a two-run lead following a Jonathan Villar home run, the pitching appearance qualified as a save opportunity for Wilkerson. When he completed it, Wilkerson became the first MLB position player to record a save since it became an official stat 50 years ago.
Stevie Wilkerson is the first position player EVER to record a save (saves became an official stat in 1969).— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 26, 2019
Prior to Wilkerson's save, three full-time pitchers — Paul Fry and Tanner Scott for Baltimore and Ty Buttrey for Los Angeles — were credited with blown saves.
Like we said, the game refused to end.
Here’s an interesting sidebar, too. Chris Davis, who entered to play first base for the Orioles in extra innings, is the only American League position player to earn a win as a pitcher since 1969.
Since 1969 (when saves became an official stat), there have been two AL position players to earn a win or a save in a game, and both were @Orioles:— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) July 26, 2019
05/06/2012, Chris Davis win at Bos
07/25/2019, Stevie Wilkerson save at LAA#Birdland
That’s some irony.
Remarkably, the pitching appearance was Wilkerson's third just since the All-Star break. In four total innings, he's allowed one run on four hits. He's not throwing heat, either. His fastest pitch recorded in Thursday's game was 56 MPH.
Stevie Wilkerson closed out the Angels in the 16th inning throwing 55 mph lobs. His average velo was 54.3. Pretty hilarious. pic.twitter.com/zREuhXGtYj— David Adler (@_dadler) July 26, 2019
The truth is, when batters are used to facing pitchers that throw between 85 and 100 MPH, the 30 MPH drop can easily throw them off. That appears to be what's making Wilkerson so oddly effective.
Controversial call at home plate extends the game
When a game goes 16 innings, chances are it will have included a little bit of everything. Unfortunately, that even means controversy.
The big moment here happened in the 15th inning. After Baltimore scored three runs in the top half, the Angels battled back to put the winning run on base for Mike Trout with one out in the bottom half.
Not surprisingly, Trout came through by lining a double into the left field corner. Two runs scored easily to the tie the game. However, the trail runner, David Fletcher, who represented the winning run, was called out on a bang-bang play where his hand touching home plate and the tag by catcher Pedro Severino happened almost simultaneously.
The play was reviewed for two minutes and 41 seconds. The call was not confirmed or overturned. It simply stood because replay officials did not see enough evidence to change it.
It was disappointing for the Angels, who were poised to move six games over .500. Instead, they fell to 54-50 and are now four games out of a Wild Card spot.
The ending only added insult to the outcome. At 33-69, the Orioles are a team LA needs to beat regardless of the circumstances in order to gain ground. That made Thursday (and Friday) a huge missed opportunity.
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