By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
7:22 PM EDT, September 21, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A few minutes after 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, shortly after the Orioles lost the longest game, time-wise, in the franchise's history, manager Buck Showalter informally canvassed a few veterans to see whether they wanted to be in Saturday afternoon's starting lineup.
No one blinked.
"I talked to some of them last night, and I got a real common theme," Showalter said. "I know there is some emotion there so I wanted to wait again until this morning, because you also want to provide for that thought when they get up and say, 'What the (heck) did I tell him last night?'"
But no one had a 'Come to Buck' moment Saturday afternoon, so six of the eight Orioles who played all 18 innings in Friday's six hour, 54-minute marathon were in Saturday's starting lineup. It took them until the ninth to score in Saturday's 5-1 defeat to the Rays.
"We have a week left to play, there is plenty of off time in the offseason and we still need to win these games," said right fielder Nick Markakis. "We still have a week and a few games to play and we're not out of it. So we need to grind it out."
Showalter rested only Matt Wieters, who caught 292 pitches in Friday's game, and 35-year-old second baseman Brian Roberts, who has been plagued by injuries the past few seasons. Outfielder Michael Morse started in left Friday and played six innings, but was not in line for a start on Saturday because right-hander Alex Cobb was on the mound for the Rays
Starting with Tuesday's game in Boston, Wieters had caught 47 innings in four games. As Friday's game progressed, Showalter said he kept an eye on Wieters, who also caught all 18 innings in a game last September in Seattle and all 17 in a game last May in Boston.
"I kept looking at him after every inning after the 12th inning," Showalter said. "He'd come in and I'd look at him and he'd look up at me with those big eyes and wink and smile and go, 'Got it. Good. That's all.'"
Steve Clevenger started at catcher and Alexi Casilla received the nod at second base Saturday. Showalter said he wanted to get Casilla in a game, and infielder Ryan Flaherty hasn't fared well at Tropicana Field (1-for-19) in his career. He also believed Roberts could use a breather, but knew the veteran wouldn't ask for it.
Showalter said he wasn't worried about how the excruciating loss would affect his club's mindset the rest of this series against the Rays. And his players echoed those statements.
"I don't remember [Friday] night already. That's how tiring it was and I didn't even play the whole game," McLouth said before Saturday's game. "It was much more tiring than it was deflating."
McLouth said he went to sleep around 4:30 a.m. Saturday; Showalter said he "turned off the lights" around 6.
Markakis estimated he was asleep by about 3:30 or so – but the slumber didn't come easily.
"I laid down, but even though you played 18 innings and it's 2:30 in the morning and you're so tired, it's kind of hard to fall right to sleep," Markakis said. "You've got to kind of wind down and lay there and stare at the ceiling for a little bit."
Britton and Belfiore called up from Sarasota
Needing reinforcements after Friday's two-games-in-one, the Orioles recalled left-handers Zach Britton and Mike Belfiore on Saturday. Both pitchers are on the club's 40-man roster and were at the organization's minor league complex in nearby Sarasota waiting for a chance to return.
"We were the only ones who got normal sleep," joked Belfiore, who learned of his call-up at 3 a.m., shortly after Friday's game ended. "I kind of updated myself on the game, but I was still sleeping a little bit. But yeah, 3 a.m. they gave me a call."
The 24-year-old Belfiore, who was 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 27 games for Triple-A Norfolk, has been called up twice before, but has yet to make his major league debut. He warmed in the bullpen Saturday but didn't pitch.
Britton, 25, made seven starts for the Orioles this season, going 2-3 with a 5.45 ERA. He was 6-5 with a 4.27 ERA with the Tides.
Showalter said the club was already planning to recall Britton before Friday night's game went into extra innings. It was possible that if Saturday's scheduled starter, Miguel Gonzalez, was needed Friday, Britton could have started Saturday.
Gonzalez left his previous start due to a groin strain and Showalter said Britton and Belfiore were also needed insurance in case Gonzalez re-aggravated the injury early in the game.
"I don't care how many sprints, stretches, side work he's done," Showalter said. "There's a different intensity in a game. You can't imitate getting off the mound and getting a ground ball. We've tried everything, so you better cover yourself."
No Wada for Orioles
The Orioles also could have added left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who has not thrown a major league pitch since being signed to a two-year, $8.14 million deal in January 2012, but the club decided to keep him in Sarasota.
Wada, 32, missed all of last season with an elbow ligament tear that required surgery. The pitcher rehabbed this year in Sarasota and at Norfolk, where he was 5-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 19 starts.
"He was an option," Showalter said. "We felt like these guys (Britton and Belfiore) have both been here this year and were a little more ready to cover us better."
The club has a $5 million option for Wada next year, but it appears that his Orioles career may have ended before it started.
Here are some of the eye-popping numbers from Friday's 5-4 loss to the Rays in 18 innings: The teams combined to use a major-league record 21 pitchers. … They combined for 593 pitches; 301 by the Rays. … There were 144 combined plate appearances. … The Rays had never played in a six-hour game or won one after 14 innings. Their longest game, innings-wise, had been 16, done twice. … It was the second-longest game this season, 12 minutes shorter than the Arizona at Philadelphia game on Aug. 24 that also lasted 18 innings. … The Orioles are 3-2-1 in games that last at least 18 innings in their history. Their last 18-inning game was Sept. 18, 2012. … The Orioles' previous longest game, time-wise, was six hours and 15 minutes on July 2, 2004 at Philadelphia. … The only big league game in Orioles' modern-day franchise history that was longer than Friday's, innings-wise, was a 7-5 victory over the Washington Senators at Memorial Stadium on June 4, 1967 that lasted 19 innings. Andy Etchebarren won the game with a two-run homer after twice failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
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