An 18-inning game could be good, theoretically speaking. It could feature a lot of action and drama and excitement. And that could be the case even if there’s very little scoring. But an 18-inning long game featuring four dozen batters turning on their heels in the batters box and walking back to the dugout has to be . . . trying.
That’s what happened in Chicago last night as the Yankees and Cubs combined for 48 strikeouts in their impromptu double bill, eventually won by New York. The 48 strikeouts set a major league record. There were 15 walks on the night too, as the teams combined for 583 pitches. The former record for strikeouts in a game was 43, set in a 20-inning game between the California Angels and Oakland Athletics in 1971.
Aaron Hicks struck out four times and walked twice in eight plate appearances. Chase Headley was 0-for-7 with four strikeouts of his own. The top three in the Cubs order, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, each struck out three times. Addison Russell and Willson Contreras struck out three times each as well.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.