Extra-inning games occurring at rapid rate this year

Extra-inning games occurring at rapid rate this year

The seventh-inning stretch is one thing: a baseball tradition, a chance for the home crowd to sing a song and stand up together for a few minutes before taking in the rest of the ballgame.

The 14th-inning stretch? That's an aberration, a bit of comic relief on an unexpectedly long night of ball.

But in a 2013 season when Major League teams have gone into extra innings at a surprisingly frequent rate -- at possibly a record pace -- there have been more than a dozen opportunities for a second seventh-inning stretch of the game. One game earlier this month was a few outs away from the chance for a third.

Let's just say this season has seen a lot of games stretched out well beyond the regulation nine innings.

The June 8 matchup between the Mets and Marlins didn't end until after 20, a marathon standing as the longest of an impressive total of 114 extra-inning games so far this season. After a six-hour, 25-minute game that saw 15 straight scoreless innings, Marlins manager Mike Redmond summed it up for a lot of folks at Citi Field that day/night and a lot of players and fans who have gutted it out, inning after extra inning, time after time in 2013.

"It's a lot of baseball," Redmond said after a 2-1 win for his club. "A long day. It's always better to win those."

To his point, about the only sure thing once a game goes into extras is that eventually one team will win and the other won't. Other than that, it's up for grabs -- it's free baseball, and there are no limits to how much will be distributed once the fun begins.

Getting a handle on the 2013 deluge of extra-inning games requires a look at 2011, when the all-time record for them was set. A total of 237 games went into extras that year, and the 114 so far puts the 2013 season on a pace for about 257.

Ah, but 2011 still has a little extra on this year, to this point of the season. The 2013 total of 114 is through the first 80 days of the record season. Through 80 days of the 2011 season, there had been 121 extra-inning affairs -- or a pace for 272, a pace that wasn't maintained. So it remains to be seen just how much of an extra effort 2013 will put forth.

All that said, the 2013 foray into extras thus far has had a little bit of everything, with every team fairly deep into the overtime pool. The D-backs lead all teams with eight wins in extras, followed by the A's and Braves at six apiece. The Astros (1-2) have the fewest extra-inning affairs with three, the Rockies (5-7) have the most with 12 and the Indians are the only ones undefeated after nine innings at 5-0 -- although they haven't been kept after school since May 20.

One thing that stands out about this year's batch of regulation-plus games so far: A large number of them have been extra long. There have been 14 games of 14 innings or longer, a total that tied 1976 and '83 for the most games of 14 or longer played as of June 13 since 1920, according to STATS LLC.

When it comes to taking extras to the extreme in 2013, it's hard to top last week's Yankees-A's single-game double dip. It was an 18-inning extravaganza that lasted five hours, 35 minutes, saw the potential winning run cut down at the plate in the 15th inning, had zero runs scored for 15 consecutive innings, and eventually ended with all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera taking the loss in what amounted to the second ninth inning of the day, the 18th.

The winner? Jesse Chavez, a reliever who hadn't pitched in eight days but who shut down the Yankees for 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just one hit. It was pretty much Chavez or bust for the A's, and that right there is another plot twist of the extra-long game.

"I knew we didn't have anyone else. I didn't want to burn one of our starters," said Chavez, who didn't.

Indeed, once games go into extras, there's no telling what could happen next. The last guy in the bullpen could win the game, and the all-time closer could give it up.

Once it goes into extras, it could be quick, or it could require a third stretch of the legs for those hearty souls still in attendance. It could be a trade of punches, or it could be a trade of zeroes. It could take all night, or all day and into the night.

Extra innings are always there, some years a little more often than others. What can be said for certain about 2013 now is that it's off to an extra-special start.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.