While watching the San Diego Padres broadcast on Saturday, they posted a trivia question, the record for most consecutive extra-inning games is five…by what team? That team is the 1908 Detroit Tigers. Synchronously, I typed that as the mellifluous baritone of Don Orsillo read the answer returning from commercial to the top of the 4th inning [breaks from writing to watch Fernando Tatís Jr. hit].
From September 9th to 13th, 1908 the Tigers were involved in those five straight games with free baseball. They won the first two but then lost the last three. They played 43 innings against the Chicago White Sox and tacked on another 11 against the St. Louis Browns, for a total of 54; that’s a lot of baseball in five days. A right-handed pitcher and switch-hitter Ed Summers won the first of those five games, throwing 11.2 innings with a single strikeout and five walks for his 19th win of the year while going 1-for-5 with a single. He would pitch 10.1 innings and take the loss in the last of those five extra-inning games, bookending the streak, facing a total of 88 batters in the two contests. That’s a batter for every key on a piano; a clip of exactly four batsmen per inning.
Fast forward 94 years to the 2002 Seattle Mariners’ season. From September 16th to 19th, the Mariners were in a four-game heavyweight fight with a Texas Rangers team 25 games out of first place. It always works out that way, doesn’t it? The M’s, on the other hand, were 22 games above .500 to start the series. All four games went extras, tying for second place behind those 1908 Tigers. One other similarity? A Mariners’ pitcher also bookended this streak with a win to begin it and a loss to close it out.
The win was his seventh on the season; he would end the season with a record of 8-3 and a 3.20 ERA. His ’02 peripherals suggested that ERA had more shine than it should; he had a FIP of 3.96 and xFIP of 4.71 paired with a serviceable 133 ERA+.
In the win, this right-hander got Jason Hart swinging for his final strikeout victim. To end the extra-inning streak with a loss, he faced seven batters and only allowed one run. Carl Everett, King of the Dinosaurs, smoked a double to right field in the top of the 10th inning. Everett was pinch-run for by…? Well, Jason Hart, of course. Todd Hollandsworth would then bunt into an out, but move Hart to third and our man had to relinquish the mound to his close buddy Kazuhiro Sasaki. Sasaki then immediately gave up a single to Hank “Not Mookie” Blalock that broke a 7-7 tie; eventually hanging the L on our mystery man.
He ended his major league career with 11.6 bWAR (4.0 fWAR), a 45-43 record with a 3.70 ERA and 14.8 K%. After baseball, he took to the links for some golf. Not unusual, especially for pitchers, I hear? What’s significant about that is that he has actually made the cut for three PGA events and has a career-low round of 73 at the 2019 MasterCard Japan Championship.
Now, there’s one more nugget!!! The first three games all ended in walk-off wins for the Mariners. As far as I can tell, that’s tied for second-most consecutive walk-off wins, behind the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers, who had four. Who was the only hitter to take a bases-loaded walk to start that string of three walk-offs? It was his third of the day, and while it was a four-pitch walk, it wasn’t recorded as his second intentional walk of the day. For that season, he drew 68 walks – by far his highest career rate at 9.3% — 27 of which were intentional. His ’02 OBP of .388 ranked 10th in the American League and he also had a portion of the home field in Seattle named for him. Name these guys.