In case you missed it, the Orioles began their west-coast trip on a positive note last night, beating the Oakland Athletics 9-3, behind a strong start from Tyler Wilson, three RBIs from Caleb Joseph, and a home run from Chris Davis that is still in orbit. And there are plenty that missed it. Watching late night Orioles games can be hard.
I mentioned on the podcast this week that I thoroughly enjoy west coast baseball. Partly, it’s because I’m a night owl, by nature. Another reason is that, with a job, two small children, and family that actually enjoys seeing me, 7:05 start times are not convenient. The 7-8 o’clock hour is reserved, in my house, for dinner, baths, books, and bedtime. Some nights, it can be the fifth inning before I really get to put both eyes on the ballgame. But 10:05 starts?
That’s when I get a little alone time with my Baltimore Orioles.
When the rest of the house (and the intelligent people in the eastern time zone) have shuffled off to bed, I get to stay up, pretending that I can still make it to the wee small hours of the morning with no impact on my productivity the next morning. And I get to watch the game, start to finish.
My favorite late night Orioles game dates back to 2012. The Orioles played a meaningful game in September that should have counted as two. On September 18, 2012, the Orioles took on the Mariners in game two of a three game series, which turned out to be one for the ages. The game lasted five hours and 44 minutes, and stretched to 18 innings. Seattle scored first, with two runs in the fourth, and the Orioles answered in the signature 2012 dramatic fashion, with two runs in the ninth. What followed was an epic battle of wills, in which neither team seemed to want to score.
A nine-inning game on the west coast generally ends around 1:00am, here in Baltimore. As the late game extended into extra innings, I kept telling myself “I’ll just watch another inning” or “I’ll just watch another half inning” until I realized that, by 2:30 or so, I was invested to the point that I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. Plus, it was clear that this late night madness had the chance of being special. “How long,” I frantically asked Google, “was the longest Orioles game on record?” In time? In innings? I made the (foolish) decision to see it through to the end, knowing full well I’d be a zombie the next day.
The Orioles had their chances. They loaded the bases in the 11th, and totaled four base runners in innings 12-17. The Mariners had six men on base over the same innings. Futility, however, ruled the day until the 18th. In the same season that featured Chris Davis coming in to pitch a pair of innings, I was hoping to see something wacky in the bullpen, but Buck Showalter managed the pen effectively, needing just eight pitchers to finish. Wei-Yin Chen gave 5.1 innings in the start. Jake Arrieta, the team’s Opening Day starter but already relegated to the bullpen, provided 3.1 innings in relief. Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, Steve Johnson, and Tommy Hunter made appearances before Jim Johnson cued The Pretender in the bottom of the 18th.
By the time 3:30 arrived, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made, but there was one time I hadn’t bet on:
Backup catcher Taylor Teagarden had just seven hits to that point, three of them had been game-winners. And on this night, he added a fourth.
That game was absurd. I was a disaster the next day (and probably, week). It also set me up for heartbreak, because it made me assume that the Orioles were incapable of losing an 18-inning game – a myth they dispelled in September of 2013 against the Rays, which took the wind out of the Orioles’ sails, and they stumbled through the gate.
But watching that marathon Orioles game was also absurdly fun. The next morning, those of us who were dumb talked about the game, hyped up on soda and coffee. We described in over-excited tones (mostly because we were too exhausted to control the volume of our own voices) to our friends and colleagues who had the good sense to read about it the next morning.
That game was one of the magical moments that made 2012 special. Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t throw in the towel as the hour grew late/early. I loved that game because it was everything that late-night O’s games should be: just a little alone time with my Baltimore Orioles.
Here’s hoping for some more magic in 2015.