Brandon Belt hit a leadoff home run off Tanner Roark in the top of the 18th inning Saturday night for what proved to be the winning run the longest playoff game in major league history. With the 2-1 win, the Giants, who had been down to their last out with the bases empty in the top of the ninth, take a 2-0 lead over Washington in the Division Series with Madison Bumgarner scheduled to start Game 3 against Doug Fister in San Francisco on Monday.
The previous longest game in postseason history was the Astros’ 7-6 win over the Braves in Game 4 of the 2005 Division Series. That game lasted 18 innings and took five hours and 50 minutes to play. Saturday night’s matchup took 6 hours and 23 minutes and was the fourth extra-inning game of this young 10-game old postseason. In addition to this game, the Royals have gone to extra innings in all three of their games thus far, all Kansas City wins.
The game was a taut pitcher’s duel through regulation, with Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann out-pitching the Giants’ veteran righty Tim Hudson (7 1/3 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K) to carry a 1-0 lead into the top of the ninth. However, with the Nationals one out away from the win, Zimmermann broke a streak of 20 straight batters retired by walking Giants second baseman Joe Panik. It was Zimmermann’s first walk of the game and ball four was just his 100th pitch. That prompted Nationals manager Matt Williams to call on his closer, Drew Storen, to face Buster Posey. Posey singled to put men on first and second, and Pablo Sandoval doubled into the left-field corner, sending Panik home with the tying run and Posey around third representing the tying run. However, the relay from Bryce Harper to Ian Desmond to Wilson Ramos was just in time to nip Posey at the plate, a call upheld on replay. That sent the game to the bottom of the ninth, in which Sergio Romo set the Nats down in order to send the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, Washington second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and Williams were ejected by home plate umpire Vic Carpazza after Cabrera slammed his bat down in protest of a called third strike near the top of the strike zone (replays suggested the most of the strike calls the Nationals hitters protested were indeed strikes), but there wasn’t much more excitement until Belt’s home run in the 18th. The only man to reach third base in the interim was Hunter Pence, who led off the top of the 12th with a double off Nationals rookie righty Aaron Barrett and moved to third on a groundout, but was stranded by lefty Jerry Blevins. On a cold night with the wind swirling, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche both hit deep fly balls that seemed like they might be walk-off home runs off the bat in the 12th and 16th, respectively, but both flies died at the warning track and fell for outs, Harper’s shot some 400 feet from home plate in straight-away center field.
Yusmeiro Petit, who entered the game for the Giants in the 12th, allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings to pick up the win. Rookie Hunter Strickland worked around a two-out walk to Anthony Rendon, who reached base five times, for the save in the bottom of the 18th, getting Jayson Werth to fly out to right for the final out just after the stadium clock hit midnight.