TORONTO -- Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins brought a whole new meaning to the term "utility men" when they both took the mound during Friday afternoon's marathon 2-1 loss to the Indians.
With a pair of struggling offenses, the game between Cleveland and Toronto turned into a war of attrition more than anything else. By the time the 18th inning rolled around, the Blue Jays went through their entire seven-man bullpen and had to resort to using a pair of middle infielders.
Goins surprised everybody by escaping a bases-loaded situation and tossing a scoreless 18th inning. Barney was not as fortunate after Carlos Santana hit the go-ahead solo home run in the 19th. It was the first time in franchise history the club used two position players to pitch in the same game.
"They ask you to pitch, and you just try and throw strikes," said Barney, who was saddled with the loss. "It was unfortunate we were in that situation. Plenty of us had opportunities to finish the game off and get the hit and we didn't, so it's our own fault we had to go out and pitch. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way."
Toronto's bullpen was pushed to the brink, but not before seven relievers combined to toss 9 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Marcus Stroman. Right-hander Bo Schultz was the last man standing, but after he went 2 2/3 innings and threw 48 pitches, there was simply no way he could return for the 18th.
That's when Toronto had a difficult decision to make. The Indians opted to use Saturday's scheduled starter, Trevor Bauer, in the 15th inning, and the Blue Jays could have done something similar, but bench coach DeMarlo Hale and the rest of his coaching staff decided it was not worth the risk.
"It was one of those situations where we just didn't want to extend anyone," said Hale, who took over from the ejected John Gibbons in the first inning. "Marco Estrada, he's battling some tightness in his back, and he's pitching tomorrow. We need him at full strength. So we made the decision to go with Barney and Goins and Schultz as far as we could.
"If you extend them too many pitches, it's going to bite you down the line, whether it's the next two games, or Kansas City when they come in ... You look at it, you might lose this battle, but you still want to be in a position to win the war."
The move initially worked out quite well. Goins surrendered a pair of singles to start the 18th and later loaded the bases with one out, but somehow managed to induce an inning-ending double-play grounder off the bat of Chris Gimenez.
That kept the game alive, but when the Blue Jays' offense could not come through in the bottom half of the frame, it led to another unenviable position. This time it was Barney who took the mound, and he was promptly greeted by a solo homer off the bat of Santana. Several minutes later, the marathon game came to an end.
There weren't many people laughing in the Blue Jays' clubhouse after this one, but give it some time, and eventually it will lead to a pretty eventful story.
"I'll probably look back 10 years from now and see I'm tied for the best ERA in Major League Baseball," Goins said. "I got that going for me."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.