Going into extra innings -- and often very deep into free baseball -- has been pretty much an everyday occurrence in 2013, building toward an all-time record.
With the Blue Jays and Orioles going 10 innings on Tuesday, a new record of 238 extra-inning games was set, surpassing the all-time high of 237 set in 2011, then the D-backs and Padres extended that record by one. After their 12-inning, 2-1 win, the D-backs have played 78 extra innings this year, the most since 1920.
"That's a lot, wow," said shortstop Didi Gregorius, who delivered the game-winning triple Tuesday. "We keep playing hard, that's all we can do. If it goes extra we just keep playing hard."
That's a lot of overtime put in over the course of the 2,430-game regular season, and there are five more days to get three or four more on the extended-play tote board.
Before Baltimore was eliminated in its 3-2 loss Tuesday, what the Orioles -- and the Rays -- did on Friday night stood out. In a season full of games going beyond nine innings, this one was a double dip of innings with the sweet topping of postseason hopes. Tampa Bay wound up taking a crucial victory on a walk-off single by David DeJesus in the 18th inning, but even the opposition had to appreciate how the inning after inning of tense action can demonstrate a battle of wills worthy of the September stretch run.
"It was impressive," O's manager Buck Showalter said of the game that lasted six hours, 54 minutes. "Two teams wanting something very badly and a small margin, and that's why those games go on like that."
In that one, there were 593 combined pitches thrown and 144 combined plate appearances, and the teams combined to use 21 pitchers -- a Major League record, beating a mark of 20 that had been reached twice. The Rays fell two short of the record for most players used in a game with 28, behind only a September 1972 game in which the A's used 30.
As Tuesday night proved, the undisputed kings of extra frames this season in the National League have been the D-backs, who not only have played more long ones than anyone else, but they've had the most success in terms of wins. At 17-7, their .708 winning percentage is second only to the Indians' .833 (10-2). Arizona's 24 extra-innings games are a franchise record, and 11 of those have come on getaway days -- you know, those travel days when both teams would prefer a quick game. The White Sox have played 23 extra-innings games, but are only 8-15.
The D-backs had an 18-inning game of their own not that long ago, winning a game in Philadelphia that lasted seven hours, six minutes -- the longest in the Majors this year -- on Aug. 25, a game that kept going and going and going. So, naturally, the players kept going and going and going.
"There's not really a choice, is there?" Arizona infielder Cliff Pennington said. "You just go out there and keep playing."
The longest game in terms of innings this year was the 20-inning mashup between the Mets and Marlins back in June, but that didn't even last as long as the D-backs-Phillies affair, going a mere six hours, 25 minutes. And there was the extra-fest on Aug. 13, when six extra-inning games were played, just the seventh time six had been played in a single day. Only two other days had more, with seven -- July 4, 1918, and Aug. 15, 1998.
These games have been going deep into extras, too. Over the course of the season, there have been 31 games of 14 innings or more, just one off the all-time high of 32 in 1976, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Of course, that raises a general point about these or any cumulative marks: There were only 1,944 games played in 1976 with 24 teams instead of 30, so the frequency in '76 will be higher even if 2013 has another couple of double-dip games. Take that a step further, and the 154-game seasons with 16 teams played 1,232 games in a season, etc.
Still, it's been an extra-special year, no question about it. Extra-inning games have trended upward since a low of 182 in 2005, exceeding 200 three of the last four years, with 2012 falling short at 192. This year has included not just more 14-plus games, the number of games longer than that are well above the norm for the past 15 years.
Success in extras this season runs the gamut, from the Indians and their 10-2 mark to the Tigers' 6-12, a vast disparity between the two AL Central rivals. The Mariners have played the second-most games in the AL with 21, but they have gone 6-15 for a winning percentage of .285 that is better only than the Rangers' .250 (3-9). Seattle's 15th loss in extras on Monday extended a club record, and the 21 total games tied the 1982 club. Dating back to July 1, 2012, the Mariners have lost 23 of 29 games that have gone beyond the regulation nine.
Among contenders heading into the homestretch, the Reds have the most wins with 13, while the Braves have 12, the Royals have 11 and the Red Sox, Dodgers and Indians are all in double figures with 10. The Yankees (5-6), Rangers and Tigers are the only other teams still in contention with a sub-.500 record in extras.
When it's all said and done, this endless stream of tight games going beyond nine might reflect a shift in the balance of power in baseball toward pitching and defense, or any number of things.
Whatever the reason, extra innings have been a major thread in the fabric of the 2013 season.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less