Thoughts from an 18-inning marathon

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It shouldn’t have been an 18-inning game. If Nationals manager Matt Williams had just stuck with Jordan Zimmermann in the ninth, his club most likely would have beaten the Giants 1-0 to even the NLDS at a game apiece.

But, then, the most likely outcome with Drew Storen entering with a man on first and two down in the ninth was also a 1-0 Nationals victory. Storen, while not necessarily terrific coming on with runners on base, had gone his last 23 appearances without allowing an earned run. He finished the season with a ridiculous 1.12 ERA. Yes, he had something of a meltdown in his previous postseason appearance two years earlier, but that’s not something that should have been factored in tonight. He’s been pitching about as well as any NL reliever.

So, no, I’m not going to slam Williams for the choice. I didn’t think Zimmermann needed to come out, but I didn’t see anything wrong with Storen coming in.

– Of course, the Giants went on to win 2-1 in 18 innings, thanks to a Brandon Belt homer and a host of fine pitching. Yusmeiro Petit joined the small list of pitchers to throw six scoreless innings of relief in a postseason game. Pedro Martinez did it, not giving up a hit in the process, to clinch Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS for the Red Sox. Petit struck out seven and allowed just one hit to earn the victory.

– When Petit came in, my initial thought was that the Giants just hurt their chances of winning Game 4; they hadn’t announced whether Petit or Ryan Vogelsong would pitch that game. Obviously, Game 4 or no, Bruce Bochy made the right call.

– Tim Hudson, who has started both 18-inning games in postseason history, was terrific in what was shaping up as a losing cause, giving up one run in 7 1/3 innings. Hudson is now just one Giants win away from going to an LCS for the first time in his illustrious career; his teams were 0-for-6 in LDS play (the A’s were 0-for-4, the Braves 0-for-2). That previous 18-inning affair was between the Braves and Astros in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS. Hudson allowed three runs in seven-plus innings, and the Braves lost hours later on a Chris Burke homer.

– In all, the two teams tonight hit .143 in 119 at-bats. They slugged .193. The Giants were 8-for-57 with 14 strikeouts. The Nationals were 9-for-62 with 20 strikeouts.

– Facing elimination, the Nationals will have a tough call on whether to play Ryan Zimmerman on Monday against left-hander Madison Bumgarner. It’d be nice to squeeze him in somehow, but doing so would weaken the defense. Also, Zimmerman is a mere 3-for-17 with a homer off Bumgarner in his career. The candidates to be bumped — Bryce Harper (3-for-9, 1 HR), Asdrubal Cabrera (2-for-3) or Adam LaRoche (6-for-21, 3 2B) — have all been more successful, though those numbers mean next to nothing (or maybe just nothing).

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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