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AZ SnakePit 2018 Awards - Game of the year. April 2, vs. LAD - the longest night

I hope you hadn’t made other plans.

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There have been longer games at Chase Field in terms of innings. Indeed, later this season, we saw a 16-inning contest against the San Diego Padres. However, that ended in a) defeat for the Diamondbacks, and b) a relatively brief five hours and thirty-one minutes. Three other games also went that distance, in 2013, 2006 and 1999, but none of them topped 5:32 in duration. This one cruised past them all, in part because it broke a near two-decade old mark for most base-runners allowed in an Arizona victory. The D-backs allowed 19 hits and eight walks, passing the previous record of 26 (14 hits, nine walks, two HBP and a ROE) set in August 1998. No wonder this took nearer six hours than five and a half.

Despite the mojo of Byung-Hyun Kim tossing out the first pitch, it didn’t begin like a home win, as a Yasmani Grandal blast gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, one out and 16 pitches into the game. Arizona chipped away, tying the game with runs in the first, third and fourth. LA starter Hyun-Jun Ryu lasted only four innings, while Taijuan Walker was gone after five, and the bullpens settled in for what turned out to be a long night. The Dodgers took advantage: Yoshihisa Hirano allowed his first run, on a home-run by Logan Forsythe in the sixth. Then Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland each gave up another in their innings; although Jorge De La Rosa left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, Arizona trailed by three.

Going up against Kenley Jansen - at that time, still one of the most feared closers in the majors - things looked bleak, especially after David Peralta and Ketel Marte grounded out. That left Arizona down to their final out, trailing by three with the bases empty, and a Win Probability of just 0.6%. But Paul Goldschmidt drew a full count walk. Then A.J. Pollock drew a full-count walk, and Chris Owings came to the plate representing the tying run. He wasn’t hanging around, and deposited the first thing he saw, a mediocre 91 mph pitch from Jansen, into the left-field bleachers for a three-run home-run, tying the game at six. We had ourselves a brand-new ballgame.

And things were just getting started. Five innings followed without either side being able to score. That, combined with the short outings by both starters, left the relief corps on each side severely taxed, and Arizona and Los Angeles were eventually worn down to their last bullpen arm standing - Wilmer Font and Fernando Salas respectively. It looked like the Dodgers would prevail, scoring off Salas in his third inning of work. But the D-backs rallied once more, tying the game up on Nick Ahmed’s RBI double into the left-center field gap. [Jake Lamb scored that run, but his dive home exacerbated the shoulder injury suffered earlier that night, diving for a pop-up in the ninth - it eventually ended his season in July]

That brought in Jeff Mathis, pinch-hitting for Salas with one out and the winning run on second-base. This switch was a role of the dice by Torey Lovullo, with Salas his final available pitcher: if Arizona hadn’t walked it off, Mathis would have ended up taking the mound for the sixteenth inning [Jeff would eventually get to make his Arizona pitching debut later in the year, on July 8, pitching the sixteenth inning there, and taking the loss against the Padres on a home-run to Wil Myers] And that was a real risk. The catcher made his major-league debut in 2005. Know how many pinch hits Mathis had before in his career before this trip to the plate? Just two. He had gone 2-for-26 off the bench, with 11 strikeouts.

Of course, Mathis dumped the ball almost into the same spot as Ahmed’s game-tying double, and as the clock rolled on to nearly half-past midnight in Phoenix, the latest celebration in Chase Field history got under way.

What they said

  • Torey Lovullo: “It was a really, really satisfying night to come out ahead the way we did. It spoke volumes about the character of this team. I’ve talked about it now for over a year, this team doesn’t shut down. They fight, they claw, they believe…really proud of these guys tonight.”
  • Chris Owings: “It was two really good at-bats before me, and just looking at his misses, kind of up and away, kind of thinking he’d need to get back in the zone, and that pitch was right where I was kind of looking. Definitely got us back in the game, and from there, the rest is history.”
  • Taijuan Walker: “[Mathis] definitely didn’t want to pitch. He came in here and he had the look on his face. He didn’t want to pitch. We were pretty much like, ‘Hey, if you don’t want to pitch, get a hit.’ He did. It was awesome.”
  • Jeff Mathis: “Everybody was coming in and talking about how slow [Font’s curveball] was and how you have to let it get there. It was really good advice for me coming in off the bench... Watching him over the last four innings, he was mixing it up, fastball and his curveball. He threw me the first one for a strike and I saw it pretty good. He ended up leaving the next one up and I was able to get some barrel on it.”
  • Alex Boswell: “In the end, this team never quits. Who would have thought that the longest game in Chase Field history would end with a Jeff Mathis walk-off single.”