Where does Ian Kinsler's 14-pitch Game 1 at-bat rank among the longest postseason battles?
In the third inning of Thursday night's ALDS Game 1 between the Tigers and Orioles, Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler battled with O's starter Chris Tillman in a lengthy 14-pitch at-bat. Tillman ultimately got the best of Kinsler, inducing a line-out with an 86-mph changeup:
How does that plate appearance stack up among other lengthy postseason battles? As it turns out, pretty favorably.
According to Baseball Reference, only six different appearances matched or surpassed that epic 14-pitch number since 1974. Of course, each of those comes with its own awesome story. It is the postseason, after all.
1986 World Series Game 3 - Mets' Roger McDowell vs. Red Sox' Don Baylor - 14 pitches
Most remember the 1986 World Series for a different play, but Baylor's ninth-inning at-bat against the Mets pitcher is worthy of its own spot in baseball lore. Sure, the Red Sox were trailing 7-1 heading into the final frame and, yeah, Baylor knocked that 14th pitch on the ground to third baseman Ray Knight. But a 14-pitch battle in the bottom of the ninth inning of a World Series game will always be exciting - no matter the score.
1993 ALCS Game 6 - White Sox' Scott Radinsky vs. Blue Jays' Roberto Alomar - 14 pitches
Radinsky and Alomar's battle wasn't quite as dramatic as the McDowell-Baylor duel. After all, it happened so much earlier - the top of the ninth inning.
Of course, the biggest difference was that Alomar's Blue Jays were, in fact, leading the White Sox when he stepped into the box, meaning the stakes were just a bit lower for him than for Baylor's AB seven years prior. Still, 14 pitches is impressive - even if it ended in a flyout to center fielder Lance Johnson.
Interesting footnote: Four batters later in the inning, Tony Fernandez engaged in his own lengthy battle with a White Sox pitcher - this time Roberto Hernandez - seeing 13 pitches before finally knocking a liner to center field for the final out of the frame.
1995 ALCS Game 4 - Mariners' Bob Wells vs. Indians' Eddie Murray - 14 pitches
Leading 6-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Murray stepped in with one runner on and nobody out. He proceeded to work himself deep into the count, eventually reaching base when Wells walked him on the 14th pitch.
Interestingly, neither he nor the runner ahead of him (second baseman Carlos Baerga) scored on the play - despite the fact that the next two batters up were Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Thome struck out and Ramirez popped foul, recording the Indians' first two outs of the inning. Paul Sorrento managed to draw a walk to load the bases, but Tony Pena grounded into the inning-ending out.
Of course, when you're leading 6-0, you can probably afford to strand three runners on base.
1980 NLCS Game 1 - Astros' Ken Forsch vs. Phillies' Pete Rose - 15 pitches
In the bottom of the first inning, Philly's leadoff hitter, Pete Rose, strode to the plate and, apparently, decided he was going to make Forsch work for his first out of the day. Like, work really, really hard.
Rose saw 15 pitches before grounding out to short, which is incredible. But what's particularly incredible is that he faced off with Forsch three more times that day, seeing a total of 10 pitches in those three at-bats. He even managed to get two hits and, of course, was 39 years old at the time.
1997 World Series Game 4 - Marlins' Antonio Alfonseca vs. Indians' David Justice - 15 pitches
With the Indians leading 6-1 in the bottom of fourth, Manny Ramirez led off the frame by swinging at the first pitch and grounding out to short. Justice decided to take the exact opposite approach, patiently working through 15 pitches before he finally decided to take a big cut.
Unfortunately, that cut only moved some air around, earning Justice a strikeout and the second out of the inning. But hey - the Indians won the game 10-3, with Justice finishing 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Lengthy at-bats are fun, but he probably enjoyed those runs a bit more.
2004 ALCS Game 2 - Yankees' Jon Lieber vs. Red Sox' Johnny Damon - 16 pitches
This section is about the 2004 ALCS, but this particular story comes from Game 2 - before, you know, that happened.
Lieber was absolutely dealing, giving up just a hit and a walk through the first five frames before getting Bill Mueller to pop out to third to lead off the sixth. Despite a rough outing from Pedro Martinez, the Red Sox were trailing by only a single run when Damon came to the plate following Mueller, and while he didn't manage to get Boston's offense going, he did make a bit of history.
Damon worked 16 pitches off Lieber before finally giving in and lining one directly to All-Star center fielder and legendary blues musician Bernie Williams. The Yankees would go on to win both that game and the next one, and then, well, you know the rest.
Did the Red Sox' epic comeback start during Damon's postseason-record plate appearance? Probably not. But here's an interesting stat: there were six plate appearances in the 2004 ALCS in which the hitter saw 10 or more pitches. In all six of those battles, the hitter was a member of the Red Sox.
And one of those 10-pitch at-bats wound up being rather memorable: