Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Mets Set A Timely Record This Weekend

On Friday night (and Saturday morning), the Mets and Phillies took part in a 5-hour, 23 minute marathon that wasn't decided until the bottom of the 14th inning, when the Phillies walked off with a 6-5 victory.  As tiring as that game was for its participants and the fans, that was just the opening act for yesterday's affair.  Once again, the Mets and Phillies played a 14-inning affair, but this time they needed five hours and 32 minutes to decide a victor.  The Mets pulled out a 5-4 win by scoring a run in the top of the 14th and keeping the Phillies from crossing the plate in the bottom of the inning.

Two games, 28 innings, 10 hours and 55 minutes of game time.  It's almost enough to make even the biggest baseball lover put up the white flag.

So of course, with me being a numbers geek (so I've been told), I decided to see if the Mets had ever played back-to-back games of 14 innings or more.  I also fiddled around to find out if they had ever played consecutive five-hour games and if they had ever needed nearly 11 hours to complete two straight games, regardless of how many innings they needed to play those games.

Kids, we're looking at history here with these last two games.

Wake up, Mets fans!  You're missing out on history!  (Photo by Chuck Solomon/SI)

Prior to Friday and Saturday, the Mets had played consecutive games of 14 innings or more just once in their history.  That occurred on September 7 and September 8, 1979, when the Mets hosted the eventual World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium.  On September 7, the Mets and Bucs played a 14-inning affair that ended in an 6-4 victory for Pittsburgh.  The Mets could have won the game in the 11th, but failed to score after loading the bases with no outs.  Pittsburgh won it when Mets third baseman Richie Hebner committed an error on what should have been the third out of the inning.  The Pirates took advantage of Hebner's gaffe, scoring on a single by Dave Parker and a passed ball by Alex TreviƱo, who caught all 14 innings.  No wonder long-time Mets fans hate Richie Hebner to this day.

Pittsburgh tied the September 7 game by scoring a run in the top of the eighth.  The next day, they scored twice in the eighth to knot the score again.  This time, the squads needed 15 innings until one team tasted victory.  Fortunately, the Mets did not have to endure a dual dose of defeat, as John Stearns singled home Lee Mazzilli with two outs in the bottom of the 15th inning to give the Mets a 3-2 victory.

Both games were played rather quickly, with the 14-inning game lasting three hours and 45 minutes and the 15-inning affair taking four hours and 18 minutes to complete.  Clearly, neither game approached the length of the two affairs played by the Mets and Phillies over the last two days.  But several consecutive games in the team's early days did.

The Mets didn't play the first five-hour game in team history until May 31, 1964, when they needed a record seven hours and 23 minutes to play a 23-inning game against the San Francisco Giants, a game they lost, 8-6.  That marathon was the second game of a doubleheader.  Fortunately, the first game lasted just two hours and 29 minutes, meaning the teams played the two games in under ten hours.  On June 2, 1964, the Mets played their first game after the 23-inning affair, taking a tidy two hours and 38 minutes to defeat the Houston Colt .45s by the final score of 7-4.  That means the Mets needed ten hours and one minute to play back-to-back games, the first time they had ever surpassed ten hours of playing time in consecutive games.

In 1968, the played another endless game, needing 24 innings before falling to Houston by a 1-0 count.  That game lasted six hours and six minutes.  However, neither the game preceding it nor the game immediately after the tense snoozefest made it to the three-hour mark, meaning the ten-hour, one-minute record for consecutive games was still intact.

The Mets did not play their third 5+ hour affair until 1973, when they took a 7-3, 19-inning decision over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.  Their next five-hour game took place a year later, when the Mets played a team-record 25-inning game at Shea Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The game took seven hours and four minutes to complete.  The following night, the Cardinals and Mets needed two hours and 57 minutes to play nine innings, giving them a record-tying ten hours and one minute of playing time for two straight games.  But the Mets still had not played back-to-back five-hour games.

After their 1974 marathon, New York played a handful of five-hour games.  They played exactly five hours in a 1979 game against Houston (an 18-inning loss) and competed for five hours and one minute versus San Diego in 1980 (another 18-inning loss).  The Mets played two five-plus hour games in 1985 and they actually won them both.  Of course, who can forget Fireworks Night in Atlanta on July 4 (and 5), when the Mets neeeded six hours and ten minutes to end the 19-inning rain-soaked slugfest?  That memorable game took place two months after New York claimed an 18-inning affair against Pittsburgh in five hours and 21 minutes.

The Mets came close to playing back-to-back five-hour games in 1986, when they lost to Houston in 15 innings on July 20 and defeated Cincinnati in a fight-filled 14-inning contest two nights later.  Both games lasted at least five hours.  However, the Mets played a game in three hours and seven minutes on July 21, making that game the meat in a five-hour marathon sandwich.  Those were two of the three five-hour matches the Mets played in their storybook 1986 campaign, as they played a long-since forgotten five hour and three minute game on April 12, when they lost in 14 innings to the Phillies.

From 1987 to 2012, the Mets played a total of 11 five-hour games, which includes Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS against the Braves and Game 3 of the 2000 NLDS versus the Giants.  Then in 2013, the Mets played five such games, including a notorious 20-inning affair against the Marlins on June 8 that took six hours and 25 minutes to complete.  The following day, the two teams squared off again and played another extra-inning contest.  However, that game ended in ten innings, taking three hours and 35 minutes to complete.  Still, it was the third time in franchise history that the Mets needed at least ten hours to play consecutive games.  But they still hadn't played back-to-back five-hour games.

Then May 30 and May 31, 2014 happened.  And history was made at Citizens Bank Park.  This tweet by yours truly says it all.

It took until the team's 53rd season, but they had finally done it.  At last, the team played consecutive games in which each contest took over five hours to complete.  And by playing a total of ten hours and 55 minutes over the two days and nights, the Mets shattered the team record of ten hours and one minute needed to play two straight games.  That record was first set in 1964 and then matched ten years later.

As the old adage goes, "You win some, you lose some."  That's exactly what the Mets did over the last two days.  They lost a game to the Phillies on Friday night (and Saturday morning) and then followed it up by defeating Philadelphia in their next game.  But they needed forever and a day (and some of the evening) to win one and lose one against their division rivals.

Baseball is beautiful because the game is not timed, unlike the other major team sports.  But just because there's no clock attached to it doesn't mean time is completely ignored.  If it was, then you wouldn't have just found out that the Mets just played back-to-back five-hour games for the first time in team history and needed nearly 11 hours to do so.  You also might not have known that it was just the second time in club annals that they needed to play 14 or more innings in consecutive games.

The Mets never make things easy for their fans.  But they do make things fun.  That's assuming you have the time for it.

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