There has never been a baseball day quite like Wednesday. There have never been eight playoff games in one day, much less eight playoff games with four potential elimination games, each doled out an hour after the last. Now, Sports Illustrated has a full slate of coverage around the actual games. But what about the game-watching experience? A record of what it was like to try to balance all eight? For posterity, I wrote it down:
Noon ET: MLB is trying to brand this as the Fall Frenzy—a right-sized amount of chaos, just enough to invoke the opening Thursday of March Madness, all fun and no stress. Maybe! But that framework strikes me as... optimistic. The day feels both like it’s supposed to call for an intricate game plan (Watch Game A until X happens, Watch Game B until Y, etc.) and like it can’t possibly live up to expectations (not all of these can be that fun). So I’ve decided that I’m not going to go with split screens or multiple devices or a makeshift ripoff of NFL Red Zone. I’m just going to watch some baseball.
12:08 p.m.: There are four hits in the first six pitches of the first game. I’m suddenly very aware of the difference between a 1 p.m. weekday start (delightful, ideal, a treat) and a noon weekday start (unnatural, weird, patently wrong). Perhaps I’m not ready for this.
1:10 p.m.: Both Trevor Bauer and Max Fried are dealing; this game is moving quickly in a fun, zippy way, full of strikeouts. The Astros and Twins get underway, and everything is beautiful, nothing hurts.
3:20 p.m.: The Braves and Reds have moved to extra innings—without a ghost runner, as the playoff rules specify, which feels refreshing and also weirdly unnatural after adjusting to the practice over the last few months—and A-Rod is giving an ardent defense of the sac bunt on the broadcast. The fourth game of the day has started in Oakland. I have no idea what Kyle Hendricks is doing in Chicago. The net effect is starting to become just the slightest bit disorienting.
4:09 p.m.: The shots of the Twins fans lined up outside the gates of the stadium—trying to catch a glimpse of a game they cannot possibly see—are beginning to feel like an ugly metaphor. The Blue Jays and Rays have started to play. The Marlins have taken a lead over the Cubs. The Reds and Braves have entered their fourth hour, beginning to take on the slightly surreal vibe of a game that feels like it might never end, and I briefly think of everything I did this summer when there was no Major League Baseball: jigsaw puzzles and bread-baking and an embroidery kit, Taiwanese baseball and Korean baseball and 1970s baseball on YouTube, anything to get a sense of this feeling. Ha! Idiot.
4:21 p.m.: The Marlins score again, a success story that feels like something the universe started doing as an ironic bit and is now participating in entirely seriously. I love it. Meanwhile, the Twins are starting to implode, and I almost forget that an elimination game is in extras.
4:30 p.m.: The Yankees announce their lineup for the sixth game of the day. The Reds have loaded the bases in the 13th, only to watch their chances dissolve with a strikeout and force-out. I figure that whatever opinions I had about the ghost runner in extra innings are worthless here, anyway, because there is no guarantee that anyone will actually be able to score here in any context.
4:42 p.m.: At the exact moment that I watch Mike Zunino launch a baseball into the great beyond to open up the lead for the Rays, I see that the Twins have managed to lose an improbable 18th consecutive playoff game. I switch to Braves vs. Reds, still scoreless, and for a second, the broadcast washes out. The camera re-adjusts almost immediately and returns to its normal colors. But it still leaves time for me to wonder if maybe none of this is real and this game will never stop.
4:48 p.m.: Hyun-Jin Ryu misses his spots: outside, high, low, outside. It’s a four-pitch walk for Yandy Díaz. A moment later, I learn that I have missed a walk-off by the presumptive MVP to end the longest scoreless playoff game in the history of MLB.
4:54 p.m.: I wonder if I should start to figure out what to order for dinner. Then I realize it is 4:54 p.m.
5:12 p.m.: It’s … slowing down? Two games have significant leads and a third has a decent one. The fourth has only just started, Padres and Cardinals, but Chris Paddack wastes no time in putting to rest any concerns that the St. Louis offense might be too worn down by its insane September as the team jumps out to an early lead. I start breathing regularly again.
5:43 p.m.: Nate Pearson comes in for Toronto, and I take a moment to be grateful that we live in a time where we can watch a rookie pitch like this in what is effectively garbage time. What a wonder!
6:12 p.m.: The A’s are giving Liam Hendriks the opportunity to throw 49 pitches in a game that has suddenly become close but will likely still require a do-or-die contest tomorrow. I do not try to make sense of this.
6:28 p.m.: There is no rain in Cleveland, but the tarp has gone on the field and the game has been delayed, which seems… ill-considered, given the consequences of potentially burning the starters if the rain moves in later as expected. Ah, well, nevertheless!
6:54 p.m.: I briefly fight the urge to lie down for a quick nap.
7:48 p.m.: Jake Cronenworth of the Padres exhibits some awful baserunning, a sort of desperate confusion that ends poorly not once, but twice, and it feels weirdly poignant.
8:05 p.m.: The Yankees and Indians start right as the rain does. By the time Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound in the bottom of the first, the sky has taken on the vaguely ominous tone of a storm, the wind is whipping and the rain is visible on the broadcast.
8:09 p.m.: The Yankees and Indians stop again.
8:40 p.m.: The Yankees and Indians start again.
11:50 p.m.: By the bottom of the seventh inning in Cleveland, the game has slowed to the sort of gentle meandering pace that feels more like the playoff baseball of recent history. (I am vaguely aware that the Dodgers and Brewers are also playing out in L.A.) It feels like the inverse of the Braves and Reds—interminable for a completely different set of reasons. Down by two, Sandy Alomar Jr. has decided to pinch-hit Jordan Luplow for his hottest hitter, Josh Naylor, which does not particularly make sense. So, of course, it works.
12:23 a.m.: It is October now. Cleveland’s terrible offense has put up nine runs on the Yankees and taken the lead, and I have absolutely no interest in sleep.
12:43 a.m.: The Yankees have loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, I am bordering on delirium, the world does not exist outside of my television, I love baseball, I want to die.
12:45 a.m.: alskdjalskdjas!
1:14 a.m.: The Yankees take the lead. The Indians call on Austin Hedges to pinch-hit as the potential final out of the ninth inning; I have lost all attachment to the logic that is supposed to govern the universe and am just going with it. He strikes out. Some six hours after the game was scheduled to start, after a record number of walks and a lurching ride through the later innings, the longest regulation game in MLB history has ended. And then the broadcast switches over—Los Angeles and Milwaukee are still going. I watch some more baseball.