I went to the ballpark on Saturday expecting to see a great pitcher's duel between Mark Buehrle of the Toronto Blue Jays and Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.
The contest started out that way, but after five hours and 28 minutes and 18-innings of play, it was more about the Jays finally grinding out a win 4-3 and two relievers in particular, the Jays Brad Lincoln and the Rangers Ross Wolf pitching their hearts out with the game on the line with every pitch they threw.
Lincoln pitched four innings of one hit shutout relief. Wolf went an incredible 6 2/3 and gave up just the one unearned run in the 18th, set up by his own errant pick-off attempt at first base.
While at the Rogers Centre, I wondered if I had ever seen a game of that duration before. We were quickly informed that the game matched the longest in both the Blue Jays and Rangers history. It was the second 18 inning game in Blue Jays history and the fifth in the Rangers.
I decided to do a little research and check out Toronto's first 18-inning affair. It happened July 28 2005 and was also at Rogers Centre. The Jays were facing the Angels that day, and John Gibbons was the Jays' manager.
The Jays won it on a Thursday night 2-1, with Shea Hillenbrand and Orlando Hudson driving in the two runs. Oddly enough, the Blue Jays current pitching coach Pete Walker got the victory in relief, with three innings of shutout ball.
There are a few other connections to the 2013 Jays from that previous team. Current Blue Jays broadcaster Gregg Zaun caught the entire game and went 0-7 at the plate. Two of the Molina brothers who later played for the Jays, Benji and Jose, split the catching duties for the Angels and each went 0-3.
Two other players who took part in Saturday's game were also involved in the 2005 game. Jason Frasor who pitched one shutout inning of relief for Texas, also did the same thing for the Jays eight years ago. Maicer Izturis, the Blue Jays third baseman on Saturday, was the Angels third baseman in the other marathon game.
Finally, David Bush, the Blue Jays starting pitcher in that '05 game went 8 1/3 innings, giving up just one earned run on five hits while walking two and striking out four. On Sunday, Bush was the winning pitcher, for the Blue Jays' Triple-A Buffalo farm club in a victory over the Yankees Scranton/Wilkes Barre farm club.
One last similarity is that the Jays have a Canadian born third baseman in Brett Lawrie, although he is injured with no definite time table for his return. In 2005 the Jays also had a Canadian third sacker in Corey Koskie, whose career was ultimately cut short by the after effects of a concussion. Koskie went 1-6 that day against the Angels.
It really is amazing how many connections there are between the two games despite the fact that they were nearly eight years apart.
There are a couple of Blue Jays' pitching prospects you should keep an eye on.
Big right-hander John Stilson really impressed John Gibbons in spring training. The 6'3" hurler moved up from Double-A New Hampshire to Buffalo and is now pitching in relief, rather than starting.
He was a third round pick in the 2011 draft out of Texas A and M. At the moment he's not on the 40 man roster.
The other prospect to watch for is 5'9" right-hander Marcus Stroman who is pitching in Double-A with the Fisher Cats.
He was a first-round draft pick last year, and was projected by some to be a closer of the future. Stroman got a late start this year after serving a 50 game PED suspension.
Right now, he is starting rather than relieving. He's 2-1 so far, and went five innings Sunday in New Hampshire's 3-2 victory over Detroit's Erie farm club. Stroman gave up a single earned run on four hits, while fanning eight and walking three.
The Jays pitching depth has been tested to the Max, this season, thru injuries and in some cases poor performances, but there are still a few young arms who could help out down the stretch.
Down For Help
Last year, Adam Lind was struggling so mightily, he was sent down to Las Vegas to sort things out. He's back now with a vengeance hitting .340 with six homers and 18 runs batted in.
There are a couple of other guys around the league who have crashed and burned this year, as Lind did early last season.
Josh Reddick was a major factor in the Oakland Athletics division title win a year ago, hitting .242 with 32 homers and 85 runs batted in, and played a strong right field. This season, he's batting just .189 with two homers and 18 runs batted in.
Then there's Ike Davis, the New York Mets slugging first baseman. He hit 32 homers and drove in 90 runs a year ago albeit with a .227 batting average. But this time around, he's hitting a feeble .161 with five homers and 16 runs batted in.
On Sunday, Davis was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas to try and find his power stroke.
Davis and Reddick are both just 26, so there is still time to turn things around. But it just shows you, sustained success is never guaranteed in the Majors.