Tuesday June 11th, 2013

Daniel Nava go-ahead RBI single top 14 vs. Rays Daniel Nava had two hits vs. the Rays, including the go-ahead hit in the 14th inning. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

In the 14th inning Daniel Nava poked a single to center field to give the Red Sox their third lead of the night, which they finally held onto for the much-belated 10-8 victory over the Rays.

Therein were two trends we’ve been growing accustomed to this season: late-inning RBIs from Nava (his 24 in the seventh or later lead the majors) and extra-inning games (the highest rate in 48 years).

For Nava, a bit player previously famous only for hitting a grand slam on his first major league pitch, it’s been a breakout season in which he’s batting .300 with a .869 OPS. He’s started 48 games, including each of the last 25, as he’s played his way into being an everyday player for Boston, which extended its AL East lead to two games with the win (and now five over Tampa Bay).

For games like this one in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday night, the classic paperboy shout -- “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” -- would be a lie if not for the Internet, as extra-inning-induced missed deadlines are becoming increasingly common for newspaper ballwriters.

Consider the marathons we’ve seen in just the last week. The Diamondbacks beat the Cardinals in 14 innings last Tuesday. The White Sox beat the Mariners in 16 innings Wednesday. The Padres beat the Rockies in 12 Thursday. On Saturday, the Blue Jays beat the Rangers in 18 while the Marlins topped the Mets in 20, the longest game of the season. And now, Monday’s extended affair with Boston and Tampa was the 15th extra-inning game of the week.

It’s been previously noted (check the Trend to Track in this story) extra-inning games are correlated with low-scoring games, so they have been on the rise the last few years during this era of increased pitching dominance, but that rate has accelerated.

At the time of the original finding, 9.42 percent of all games were going to extras. But since that story was published May 13, 12.98 percent of games have gone beyond nine frames. Overall, the Red Sox-Rays game was the 103rd extra-inning game of the 2013 season, comprising 10.90 percent of all games played. They are occurring more frequently than they have since 1965.

Extra long games of 13 innings or more are also on the rise. There were nine in the first month and a half of the season and there have been eight more in the month since. So there’s been more free baseball than in nearly a half-century, and that trend may continue -- at least until Nava comes to bat.

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