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Giants, Nats battle in longest playoff game in history

San Francisco prevails in 18th inning to win six-hour, 23-minute thriller

The Giants' apparent strategy of delivering a big hit once every nine innings not only worked, but it made for the longest game in postseason history in terms of time -- not to mention an unhappy birthday present for Nationals right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark. The Giants' 2-1 victory over the Nats in Game 2 of the National League Division Series went 18 innings and lasted six hours, 23 minutes.

The previous longest postseason game was on Oct. 9, 2005, when the Astros defeated the Braves, 7-6, in Game 4 of the NLDS on a one-out home run by Chris Burke. That one lasted five hours, 50 minutes. Because Belt's homer off Roark came in the top of the 18th, the teams wound up playing the full 18, and the Giants left Nationals Park with a 2-0 series lead.

The record books will say the game occurred on Oct. 4, 2014. It started just after 5:37 p.m. ET, but it ended slightly after midnight -- minutes into Roark's 28th birthday.

The Nationals were one out away from a victory when Pablo Sandoval doubled in the tying run with two out in the top of the ninth. Buster Posey tried to score the go-ahead run on the play, but he was thrown out at the plate. It would take another full game to decide it.

Other longest games in terms of time:

• Five hours, 49 minutes -- Game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, a 5-4, 14-inning Red Sox victory over the Yankees that started Boston's historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit.

• Five hours, 46 minutes -- Game 5 of the 1999 NL Championship Series, when Robin Ventura hit the unforgettable "grand slam single" for a 4-3 victory over the Braves in 15 innings. Ventura's hit cleared the fence with the bases loaded, but he was mobbed by teammates and never touched second base. Only the lead runner counted.

• Five hours, 41 minutes -- Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, when the White Sox defeated the Astros, 7-5, en route to a sweep. Geoff Blum, a onetime Astros player, homered with two out in the top of the 14th inning off Astros reliever Ezequiel Astacio, who later would walk in a run.

The only postseason contest other than Saturday's and the Braves-Astros game in 2005 to exceed 15 innings was Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, a 3-2 Mets victory over the Astros.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.