A few years ago, then-Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein — now a member of the Astros front office — coined the Twitter hashtag #weirdbaseball to alert followers to any game that had passed into the midnight hour locally and was likely to feature the kind of strangeness unseen in the usual nine-inning affairs. Players out of position, starters making bullpen cameos, position players taking the mound, pitchers pinch-hitting, self-defeating strategies, and of course, walkoffs.
Monday night featured two doses of especially weird baseball.
In Miami, the Marlins outlasted the Mets in a 15-inning ordeal that lasted 5 hours, 31 minutes and ended with a sacrifice fly by Nick Green, his second of the game. In Oakland, the A's slugged their way to a 19-inning win over the Angels, with Brandon Moss' second homer of the night ending things at the 6 hour, 32 minute mark — at 1:41 a.m. local time, some nine and a half hours after the first pitch of most of the night's East Coast games.
Despite both teams' sub-.500 records, the Mets-Marlins game was billed as a matchup of two impressive young pitchers, with 24-year-old Matt Harvey making his 16th big league start for New York and 20-year-old Jose Fernandez taking his fifth turn for Miami. Neither pitcher was in top form; Harvey departed in the sixth after having thrown an MLB career-high 121 pitches. He allowed seven hits and two walks but just one run while striking out seven. Fernandez was even less sharp, throwing 26 pitches in the first and fourth innings. He was pulled after the latter, which pushed his total to 81 pitches, during which he gave up a two-run homer to John Buck and walked three.
The Mets carried a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, but Green's first sacrifice fly tied the score. From there, the game became a war of attrition, as both teams put runners into scoring position but couldn't capitalize. The weirdness began in the 10th, when Miami's Giancarlo Stanton left the game with a hamstring strain, which he suffered while trying to run out a tapper; after the game, he was placed on the disabled list, where he'll likely spend more than the minimum 15 days. His injury bumped Greg Dobbs from first base to right field, and put pitcher Chad Qualls in the third spot in the lineup. After Miguel Olivo pinch-hit for Qualls in the 12th, he took the field at first base for the first time since 2006, bumping utilityman Chris Vlaika from first to second.
In the 14th inning, Mets manager Terry Collins called upon starter Shaun Marcum, who had come off the disabled list to make his first appearance of the season on Saturday. New York's ninth pitcher of the night allowed two quick singles to Green and Valaika, and after Juan Pierre flew out, Jon Rauch — Miami's seventh pitcher of the night — made his first plate appearance since 2008; the 6-foot-10 behemoth put down a serviceable sacrifice bunt, but when Olivo struck out, the agony was prolonged.
The Mets put a run across in the top of the 15th against Rauch via a one-out Lucas Duda double, an intentional wak to Ike Davis, a wild pitch, and an infield single by Ruben Tejada. Marcum, though, couldn't close things out in the bottom half. After yielding a one-out single to Greg Dobbs and walking Justin Ruggiano, a Rob Brantly single tied the score, and then Green's second sacrifice fly brought down the curtain:
[mlbvideo id="26712457" width="400" height="224" /]
Out in Oakland, the Angels built a 7-2 lead through seven innings, keyed by a 475-foot monster home run from Mark Trumbo and two homers from Albert Pujols, who went 4-for-8 on the night to snap a 3-for-31 slide. The A's rallied for four runs in the eighth, stringing together five singles and a walk against four Angels relievers to narrow the gap to 7-6. They tied it in the ninth via Coco Crisp's walk, a tag-up on a long fly ball to right, a steal of third and then Yoenis Cespedes' RBI single.
The score stayed level at 7-7 despite both teams putting runners into scoring position in the extra frames. In the 13th, Brett Anderson, Oakland's scheduled starter for the game who had been scratched with a bad ankle, entered as the A's seventh pitcher. He allowed a run in the 15th on a bases-loaded walk to J.B. Shuck but, keyed by a Pujols error, Oakland countered with a run in the bottom of the 15th against Jerome Williams. In all, Williams threw six strong innings and 73 pitches in relief while Anderson made 79 pitches over 5 1/3 innings before leaving in the 18th after aggravating his injury.
By then, the casualty count had mounted on both sides. Angels third baseman Luis Jimenez left in the eighth inning due to a bruised shin and centerfielder Peter Bourjos strained his hamstring running out a bunt in the 10th inning and is DL-bound. On the Oakland side, Crisp left the game after straining a hamstring running out a grounder in the 14th, and Chris Young, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, departed due to a strained quad in the 16th.
At long last, the A's ended the game when Moss bopped a two-run homer off Barry Enright, the Angels' eighth pitcher of the night. In a twist on recent post-walkoff custom, Moss followed up his shot with a self-administered pie in the face, followed by another one from teammate Josh Reddick and then a Gatorade bath:
[mlbvideo id="26719049" width="400" height="224" /] It was an appropriately unique ending for a weird, weird night.