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).

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?