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Longest game in franchise history ends in 19-inning win for D-backs

Arizona Diamondbacks' Ildemaro Vargas is lifted by teammates as they celebrates his walk off base hit against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks won 3-2 in 19 innings. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks’ 3-2 win against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night began to defy what you’d normally see at a baseball game right around the four-hour mark in the 13th inning of a game that went six hours, 53 minutes and 19 innings.

Fans stopped making noise for baseball actions that would usually elicit a response. It was eerily quiet at Chase Field during some moments, even when a bat made contact with the ball. That, like the game, was something many in attendance had never seen before.

With the silence, the dugouts started taking advantage by screaming whenever there was a positive ball or strike call in their team’s favor. They started being obnoxious and overzealous on purpose, to keep each other engaged and energized with the task at hand.

“I think that everybody was delirious at a certain point,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “In about the 12th or 13th inning, we just started to get in another zone.”

D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed described the Cardinals’ dugout as “loud and weird” by starting the nonsense. So, his team, of course, responded with their own lunacy in a way for “guys to just have fun I guess,” as Ahmed put it.

Then, the hush came back around the five-hour mark in the 16th inning. The second wind everyone had found was gone.

There was a sense of delirium spreading throughout. The confident play that said “this will end soon enough because it has to” turned into a more deliberate “this doesn’t end until someone scores again, right?”

It continued to get weirder.

Baxter, the D-backs’ mascot, started playfully chasing down every foul ball because he had the real estate to operate with, and half-jokingly jumped fans who beat him to the ball.

Players started showing visible frustration and finally started making mistakes six hours and 19 innings in.

Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader slammed his bat down when he hit a lazy flyball to center in his eighth at-bat of the night. Kevin Ginkel’s pickoff attempt for the D-backs later in the inning got past first and allowed a runner to advance to third.

Naturally, that runner didn’t score because Ginkel struck out Dexter Fowler, and the crowd didn’t know how to react. It was a sense of disbelief mixed with cheers, as that error felt like when the wheels were finally going to fall off.

Someone made an executive decision in the D-backs dugout in the middle of the 19th to get going again because they absolutely lost their mind when Carson Kelly drew a ball on the first pitch and again when he nearly hit a ball fair down the line on the second pitch.

The best way to describe it would be someone imitating an overreaction by overreacting even more to make the original overreacter feel like an idiot. It was terrific, and given Ahmed’s provided context of the Cardinals being the ones who started it, it also felt appropriate.

That seemed like the moment where everyone, including those playing in the game, became incredulous as to what was going on and when it would end.

To Lovullo’s point on delusion, from the 14th inning on, it felt like we weren’t even watching a real baseball game anymore. And for the players, it must have felt like the same.

Luckily, that ending came soon enough.

In the first 13 innings of what we can label as perfectly normal baseball, Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty didn’t give up a hit until the seventh, going seven shutout innings and allowing no runs, one hit and two walks.

A stadium filled with loud Cardinals fans created a nice atmosphere as the potential no-hitter drew closer, which is hilarious given the way the game unfolded later. The no-hitter chance ended with a dud when Eduardo Escobar’s single hit off the first base bag.

The Cardinals led 1-0 at that point thanks to Fowler’s leadoff homer in the first.

But leave it to Ildemaro Vargas, who hit a pinch-hit solo dinger in the ninth to tie the game and send it to extras. By the way, that was obviously when Vargas entered the game — that means he came off the bench in the ninth inning and still managed to play 11 innings.

We would resume scoring in the 13th when none other than St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo shot that seemed to let us mercifully arrive at the end point.

Alas, pinch-hitter Caleb Joseph recorded his first RBI since April 28 to send us to the Looney Tunes dimension.

Scoring chances were left unfulfilled until the 19th when none other than Vargas stepped up with the bases loaded and hit his fourth base hit of the game for an RBI and the game-winner.

“Game-tier in the ninth, game-winner in the 19th, just incredible,” Ahmed said of Vargas’ performance.

As it turns out, Lovullo revealed that it was a good thing Vargas ended the game there because he had run out of pitchers and planned to have Vargas pitch in the 20th. Robbie Ray was used as a pinch-hitter in the 19th and the plan was for Ray to move to left field, left fielder Josh Rojas to play second and Vargas to take the mound.

But that wasn’t necessary, ironically enough, on a night that didn’t feel necessary with the D-backs eliminated from the postseason and the Cardinals almost assuredly having clinched a division title.

“Felt like 30 (innings) to be honest,” Ahmed said. “Seven hours or whatever. Glad we’re done.”

Amen.

RECORDS APLENTY

It was a laundry list of records set, with a few standing out as more are surely uncovered over the next day.

– Nineteen innings was a franchise record broken after four different D-backs games had reached 18 innings.

– The game came up 14 minutes shy of breaking the record for the longest game, a seven-hour and six-minute affair in 2013 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

– D-backs pitchers recorded 24 strikeouts, a franchise high.

– The D-backs broke the previous record for most players used in one game, which was 26.

– The teams combined for 46 strikeouts, which since 1906, is the second-most ever in a game.

– In San Francisco, the Giants and Colorado Rockies went 16 innings. That’s the first time ever there have been two 16-plus-inning games on the west coast.

UP NEXT

The D-backs second-to-last series finale of the season is set for a first pitch on Wednesday at 12:40 p.m.

Merill Kelly is set as the D-backs starter while Michael Wacha gets the nod for St. Louis.

Kelly is on the best run of his rookie year. In three of his last four outings, Kelly has thrown seven shutout innings. And in that other start, Kelly was still solid, giving up three earned runs in six innings.

Wacha is 6-7 with a 4.68 ERA. The right-hander has fluctuated between a bullpen-day “opener” and conventional starter, landing somewhere in the middle his last three starts. He’s thrown four, five and four innings in those for a total of three earned runs.

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