Trying to recap the craziest game of the 2019 season

ANAHEIM, Calif. - On a night when Mychal Givens could not hold a lead in the ninth and Tanner Scott could not in the 15th, Stevie Wilkerson did in the 16th.

And the Orioles recorded an exhausting and emotional win over the Los Angeles Angels in the second-longest game by time in Orioles history. It took six hours and 19 minutes. The longest game ever by the Orioles took six hours and 54 minutes. That one took place on Sept. 20, 2013 at Tampa Bay.

This one started at 7:08 p.m. Pacific Time and ended at 1:27 a.m. on the West Coast, 4:27 a.m. in Baltimore. The Orioles outlasted the Angels 10-8 to improve to 33-69 in the wildest game of the year.

Long before it actually ended, it appeared that the Orioles would win in impressive fashion in nine innings when Trey Mancini homered in the ninth for a 5-4 lead. But Givens, who fanned Mike Trout to strand a runner at third in the eighth, allowed a homer to Brian Goodwin in the last of the ninth, and to extras we went.

No runs were scored in the 10th 11th, 12th, 13th or 14th. Finally, the Orioles broke through for three in the 15th. Jace Peterson, in his first game with the team in 2019, came up with a two-run single to break a 5-5 tie. Peterson entered the game in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and he then scored to make it 8-5 on Hanser Alberto’s fourth hit, an RBI single.

This lead would surely hold up. On came Scott, the ninth Baltimore pitcher. But the first five batters he faced went single, strikeout, walk, walk, walk to make it 8-6. Trout batted with the bases loaded and one out and lined one into the left-field corner. Two runs scored to tie it, and David Fletcher tried to score from first for a walk-off win. He was cut down at the plate 7-6-2, but the out was not official until after a replay review. The Orioles had to sweat out a review where, if the out call was overturned, they lose the game right there. But they somehow got to the 16th still playing at 8-8.

Villar-Alberto-Celebrate-16th-Inning-Homer-Gray-Sidebar.jpgThen Jonathan Villar, who had ended an 0-for-18 with an eighth-inning single, hit a two-run homer to right. It was 10-8. Who was even left to pitch for the Orioles?

Wilkerson, that is who. He took the mound and got three straight outs. Goodwin, who homered in the ninth, flew out to center. Kole Calhoun, who had gone 6-for-9 his previous two games, grounded out. Albert Pujols, a future Hall of Famer, flied to center to end it.

Wilkerson threw 14 pitches, 10 for strikes, and averaged 54.3 mph, topping at 56. He became the first position player to record a save since saves became an official stat in 1969.

“I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it yet,” said Wilkerson in a tired, but yet boisterous Orioles clubhouse. “What a wild game. That was just crazy. I’m glad I could go out there and be part of getting us a win. I think that was a gutsy performance by everybody. We stuck it out, and anytime you come out on top in a game of that length, it’s a good feeling.”

Wilkerson’s strategy pitching in a high leverage situation? Just throw it over the plate.

“Obviously, it’s different (not being in a blowout to mop up), but I tried to just keep it simple, keep it the same as last time, and just float that thing over the plate,” he said. “I don’t have much of an approach out there. I’m just trying to throw the ball over the plate and help the team out.”

That he did. And he’s now got a 2.25 ERA over four innings in three relief appearances. Since 1969, when the save became an official statistic, Wilkerson is the only position player to earn one. In that same span, only one American League position player has been the winning pitcher in a game: Chris Davis, who got the victory on May 6, 2012 at Boston.

What was manager Brandon Hyde thinking when Wilkerson ran in from center field, where he played for 15 innings, to warm up in the 16th?

“Somehow get three outs,” he said with a laugh. “I’m hoping for three at-‘em balls. It was below the hitting speed. But yeah. with Jonathan Villar and Jace Peterson with big hits. A lot of really good things offensively, and clutch performances by a lot of our guys. I’m really happy for them. That’s the best our clubhouse has been after a win. It’s a good feeling, after we’ve had so many tough losses, to win one like that.

“I think everybody was incredibly excited. Everybody’s going to hit a wall here in about 10 minutes, because it was pretty exhausting, mentally and physically. It was just a grind baseball game. It feels great to come out on top.”

Reporters waiting to enter the clubhouse could hear cheering going on, and the team had a brief celebration that sounded from outside like it was pretty wild. The proceedings included players drenching Wilkerson in several liquids in the shower after his save.

“I closed my eyes, but I know it didn’t smell too good,” he said.

Villar was just 1-for-7 in the game when he hit the two-run homer in the 16th for the 10-8 lead. It was the latest go-ahead homer, by innings, in Orioles history. Villar also had three stolen bases to match his career best.

“That’s unbelievable,” Villar said. “That is a crazy game. First time I’ve seen a position player as a closer. If you see a pitcher throw 90-something and a position player throw, like, 52. He gets out Pujols, unbelievable.”

Hyde said he never expected anything like this in his first year as a skipper.

“I’ve never had to do anything like this,” he said. “I think this was the first save by a position player since 1969, ever? Ever. No, this wasn’t something I thought about at FanFest.”

A few more notes on the crazy win:

* The O’s became the first team to blow a lead of three or more runs in the 15th or later and still win since Houston at the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 2, 1986, according to STATS.

* The Orioles earned their first win of the year when trailing after the seventh inning, and now are 1-62 in that circumstance.

* Wilkerson’s outing marked the sixth time the Orioles used a position player to pitch this year, and the 15th time in team history. Wilkerson is the first player to start a game and also earn a save in major league history.

* The Orioles bullpen pitched 14 innings after Jimmy Yacabonis went the first two as an opener.

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