The Rockies and The Padres Play 22 Innings

by Rufus Terragon, Special to
April 18, 2008

Wil Ledezma has yet to make a start for the San Diego Padres in this young 2008 season, but he will probably need a couple days off after his most recent outing. On Thursday the 27 year-old gave up three hits, walking two and striking out three in five scoreless innings. He threw 80 pitches, and ended up with a no-decision. Kip Wells, who has started one game for the Colorado Rockies this season and worked out of the bullpen in three others, only went four innings Thursday, but managed to get the win after giving up only one hit, walking one, and striking out three.

The Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres played Thursday in San Diego – ironically, the “get-away” game of their three game series – and ended up playing for over six hours. What was billed as a matchup between two of the National League’s best pitchers – the dominant Jake Peavy and the underrated-and-thus-far-under-performing Jeff Francis – in one of the game’s best pitchers’ venues, Petco Park, lived up to the hype as neither team scored a run until the fourteenth inning and neither team scored a second run until the 22nd.

Peavy was as dominant as ever, going eight innings, giving up four hits and three walks while striking out 11 to lower his ERA from 1.64 to 1.20. He threw 70 of his 113 pitches for strikes, and should have gotten his fourth win in four starts, but Francis pitched almost just as well. Francis finally seemed to find his grove against a feeble Padres offense in their enormous park, throwing 70 of his 111 pitches for strikes through seven shutout innings, giving up three hits and walking one while striking out 7. Francis needed to good outing, as he struck out more batters than he had in his first two games combined and lowered his ERA from 9.53 to 5.89.

A game like this can be helpful to struggling pitchers like Francis, Micah Bowie, Joe Thatcher, and Trevor Hoffman, but can be humorously disastrous for hitters. Brian Giles went 1-for-9 to lower his batting average from .333 to .298; his OPS dropped 100 points. Jim Edmonds, who entered the game in the bottom of the tenth as a pinch-hitter, ended up getting five at-bats but nary a hit to show for them. Tony Clark’s 1-for-8 with four strikeouts and Tadahito Iguchi’s 0-for-7 rounded out the silly for San Diego. For the Rockies, Jayson Nix came in as a second baseman in the bottom of the 14th and ended up with four hitless at-bats. Todd Helton finished the night with a 1-for-9, Brad Hawpe finished 0-for-7 with two walks and four strikeouts, and Yorvit Torrealba ended up with one hit in seven tries.

The NFL allows teams one five minute overtime – less than 10% more football – to resolve a tie. The NBA lets teams play until someone wins, but this rarely results in more than 10 minutes – roughly 20% - more basketball. In the NHL, teams play . . . okay, I have no idea what the NHL does, but it doesn’t involve playing very long. But on Thursday night, Major League Baseball allowed the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies to play an entire baseball game. Then they played an entire second game. Then they played four more innings, which is nearly half of another game. These teams played two and a half times as much baseball to resolve the victor as they usually would. I don’t know if this truly unique aspect of baseball that makes it truly great or incredibly stupid, and I don’t know if it means that baseball players are more hardcore or if it means playing a football or basketball game for eight hours would literally kill somebody.

There is a larger point to be made here. In 1993, Major League Baseball expanded into Colorado, and the epitome of a Rockies’ home game became epic battles in which each team scored in double digits and winning became a distraction for pitchers who were merely doing damage control while trying to find some way to succeed. A similar phenomenon has emerged in San Diego, with much less fan-fare: Petco Park, which opened in 2004, has become a place where fly-balls and batting averages go to die, mediocre pitchers pitch well and good pitchers become stars, and the game’s best hitters merely try to find some way to get out alive.

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