Felix Hernandez and Mike Trout's 14-pitch battle brought back memories of longer showdowns
An epic battle took place on Saturday night when Felix Hernandez faced Mike Trout in the first inning. The division rivals had a long history between them, as entering the evening, Trout had hit .382 in 76 at-bats with seven homers against Hernandez, more than any other player. On the other side though, no one had struck Trout out more than Hernandez.
It took a remarkable 14 pitches and over 5 1/2 minutes of gametime, and on his 31st birthday, the Mariners' ace emerged victorious by catching Trout looking for a called strike three.
With 11 All-Star berths, a Cy Young Award, and two MVPs between them, Felix vs. Trout made for one of the most star-studded lengthy at-bats in recent memory with an impressive breakdown of pitches.
Hernandez struck out Trout again in his next at-bat, but Trout got the last laugh when Hernandez departed and he hit a two-run homer off reliever Evan Scribner to give the Angels a 5-3 lead. They would go on to win, 5-4.
However, there have been even longer battles in recent MLB history. Current Astros bench coach Joey Cora is the best example of a hitter emerging on top. When he was a Dodger, he ended an 18-pitch marathon on May 12, 2004, against the Cubs' Matt Clement with a home run (narrated by the dulcet tones of Vin Scully).
It was a grind for Cora to beat Clement, but his hard-fought two-run blast helped the Dodgers win the game, 4-0.
The longest recorded at-bat took place even further back in the baseball timeline, and yet the pitcher who was on the mound is improbably still active in the game. As it so often seems to do, the answer comes back to Bartolo Colon, albeit a younger version.
In a showdown for the ages on June 26, 1998, the 23-year-old Colon desperately tried to put away the Astros' Ricky Gutierrez, who just would not stop fouling off his pitches. Finally, the then-flamethrower induced a whiff for the strikeout.
Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Colon managed to survive a 20-pitch at-bat in the eighth inning. Gutierrez drove his pitch count up from 84 to 104 all by himself. Despite the grueling battle, Colon stayed in to finish the inning by getting a pair of grounders from Brad Ausmus and Craig Biggio. Cleveland won, 4-2.
Go ahead and add this Trout/Felix battle to the history books anyway though. It was not only the longest career at-bat for Trout, but also the longest career at-bat for Hernandez. That's certainly worth remembering.