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Thoughts on the Dodgers-Padres marathon: ‘There’s just so much to unpack’

LA has now won three straight extra-inning games

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday night’s (and Thursday morning’s!) Dodgers-Padres marathon had many twists and turns, not so many runs, at least until very late, or very early, depending on your point of view.

“There’s just so much to unpack,” manager Dave Roberts said, a little after 1 a.m. on Thursday morning.

The game was fun enough to process in the moment. Sixteen innings made Dodgers-Padres the only game in town for quite some time, with exclusivity among late-night baseball enthusiasts for something like four hours.

I mean, just look at the bonkers win probability chart from FanGraphs:

Source: FanGraphs

But aside from the possibly delirious thoughts from right when the game ended, there were some things from Wednesday night that deserve a second look.

Playing the whole game

All eight Dodgers starting position players played all 16 innings last night. That includes catcher Will Smith, who homered, singled, walked, and scored twice at the plate.

The Dodgers haven’t had a game this long with all eight starting position players playing the entire game since May 24, 1973, a 19-inning contest against the Mets at Dodger Stadium, won by New York. That game started out as a pitching duel between Tom Seaver and Tommy John, and look at the Dodgers starters who played all 19 innings:

From Baseball Reference

“Obviously we’re not going to take batting practice tomorrow,” Roberts said last night. “We’ll see how many guys feel good enough to play tomorrow.”

The Dodgers will get one of the best reinforcements imaginable when Mookie Betts is activated off the injured list for Thursday’s finale. Roberts also said Austin Barnes will start at catcher.

How did we get here?

Wednesday night was the 26th Dodgers regular season game since the team moved to Los Angeles that lasted at least 16 innings, but the first since MLB implemented the runner-on-second rule for extra innings starting in 2020.

The point of that rule, implemented during a pandemic, was to eliminate long games that could tax rosters, and in that respect has mostly succeeded.

In 2019, under traditional rules, just under 72 percent of games were done by 11 innings, and less than half were done in 10 innings. Since the start of 2020, 92 percent of games are over by the 11th inning, and 72 percent need only one extra inning.

MLB extra-inning games

Year Extra-inning games Over in 10 innings Over by 11 innings 12+ innings
Year Extra-inning games Over in 10 innings Over by 11 innings 12+ innings
2019 208 91 (43.8%) 149 (71.6%) 59 (28.4%)
2020-21 243 174 (71.6%) 223 (91.8%) 20 (8.2%)
For 2020-21, counting only games originally scheduled for 9 innings (not 7-inning games) Source: Baseball Reference

Before Wednesday, the longest extra-inning game using the runner-on-second rule was 13 innings, but the Dodgers and Padres blew past that.

Late home runs

Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a two-run home run to tie the game in the 15th inning, and AJ Pollock’s two-run shot in the 16th won it.

Stingy, and busy arms

The Tatis home run was only the fourth hit of the game for the Padres. That’s the fewest hits the Dodgers have ever allowed in a game 16 innings or longer. Brooklyn also did this on July 7, 1915, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Boston Braves. That game was a scoreless tie.

It was the fewest hits allowed in a game of at least 16 innings since the Red Sox held the Rays to three hits on July 17, 2011, a 1-0 affair.

Tatis’ homer was San Diego’s first since the fifth inning. Nine Dodgers relievers combined to allow only one hit (and a record eight intentional walks) in 9⅓ innings, with eight strikeouts.

“It’s next man up. [Bullpen coach] Josh Bard and those guys in the pen, they’ve got a good thing going as far as kinship and camaraderie. They pick each other up,” Roberts said. “They take pride in putting up zeroes, closing out games when we have a lead, or eating innings. I can’t say enough about those guys, and we needed every one of those outs.”

The Dodgers will need more outs on Thursday, and should be helped with Max Scherzer starting on the mound. But among relievers, Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, Phil Bickford, and Alex Vesia have all pitched the last two days. Only Treinen, Bickford, and Vesia have pitched in three straight days this season, each doing so once. Vesia might be the best option to use Thursday, since he threw only eight pitches Tuesday and seven on Wednesday.

Brusdar Graterol pitched two innings and threw 25 pitches on Wednesday, so his availability might be in question as well.

Roberts said the Dodgers would bring up at least one more fresh arm for the series finale.

Starters Andre Jackson and Mitch White are with the team in San Diego, but can’t be recalled until this weekend (Friday for Jackson, Sunday for White) because they haven’t yet been optioned for 10 days. White just pitched into the sixth inning on Tuesday so he wouldn’t be available Thursday anyway. Jackson is likely needed to start or take bulk innings on Friday or Saturday, depending on which game David Price starts against the Rockies.

On the 40-man roster, that leaves Edwin Uceta and left-hander Darien Núñez, both of whom have been on optional assignment for 10 days and are eligible to return. Uceta threw 44 pitches in three innings on Sunday for Triple-A Oklahoma City, and Núñez threw 48 pitches in two innings on Monday.

Victor González is the other healthy pitcher on the 40-man roster, but he was just optioned on Wednesday and would have to replace an injured player to return so soon.

Don’t dream it’s over

When the game ended, did the Dodgers celebrate the win, or breathe a sigh of relief that the game was finally over, or maybe a mixture of both?

“You can listen to the elation after the game. There were high fives, maybe a couple of beer showers,” Roberts said. “Guys really just on adrenaline, finding a way to win a ballgame. It should count as two, but unfortunately it doesn’t. I can’t say enough about these guys.”