9 crazy plays in longest 9-inning game ever

October 1st, 2020

When it was all said and done in Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series between the Yankees and Indians at Progressive Field on Wednesday night, New York was celebrating a win to advance to the AL Division Series against their AL East rivals, the Rays. How they got there, however, wasn't exactly conventional.

The Yankees' 10-9 victory over Cleveland was one of the wildest postseason games on record, and here's a breakdown of some of the weirdest and wackiest moments on a rain-soaked night in Cleveland.

Gio to the rescue ... again

In many ways, this was the Gio Urshela Game. After launching a grand slam to put the Yankees on top, 5-4, in the fourth inning, Urshela came through in another huge spot in the eighth. With runners at first and second and one out, Aroldis Chapman was trying to keep New York's deficit to one run, at 9-8. He faced Carlos Santana, who smashed a sharp ground ball to Urshela's left at third base -- according to Statcast, the exit velocity was 108.7 mph. But Urshela snared it with a dive to his left, and from a sitting position fired to second base to begin a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.

All's well that ends well?

Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar made what seemed to be a curious decision to pinch-hit for Cleveland's hottest hitter of late, Josh Naylor, in the seventh inning. The Yankees had left-hander Zack Britton on the mound with runners at first and second with two outs and the Tribe trailing, 8-6. Naylor, a left-handed hitter, entered the game batting .304 (17-for-56) against left-handed pitching, but Alomar chose instead to have the right-handed-hitting Jordan Luplow hit in his place, perhaps assuming Britton would stay in the game to create a left-on-right matchup.

But Yankees manager Aaron Boone summoned right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga from the bullpen to face Luplow, who had a career .194/.276/.318 slash line against righties. While all of this portended a bad outcome for the Indians, Loaisiga hung a curveball and Luplow delivered a two-run double to center field to tie the score, 8-8.

Gio takes 'Wild Thing' deep

Urshela, who was signed by the Indians at age 16 out of Colombia in 2008, returned to haunt the organization that traded him to the Blue Jays in 2018, before his contract was purchased by the Yankees. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth inning, and New York trailing, 4-1, Urshela connected for a grand slam to left-center field off rookie right-hander James Karinchak, who had yielded just one homer over 27 innings during the regular season.

To add to the weirdness of the moment, Karinchak entered the game to the song "Wild Thing," and chose to wear No. 99, the same uniform number that was worn by Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the movie "Major League," while also sporting Vaughn's haircut from the film.

DeShields derailed

The first baserunner to reach in the fourth inning prior to the Urshela grand slam was Aaron Hicks, who did so in a strange way -- he lined a ball right at Indians center fielder Delino DeShields, who slipped and fell, enabling the ball to get by him and to the wall for a Hicks triple. According to Statcast, the catch probability on the fly ball was 99 percent.

Hand not so surehanded

With runners at first and second and nobody out in the ninth inning, the Indians were clinging to a 9-8 lead with their season on the line. Left-hander Brad Hand made the pitch he wanted to make, getting a chopper back to him on the mound. But Hand was unable to handle it, dropping the baseball and enabling Gleyber Torres to reach first base. Two batters later, Cleveland was trailing, 10-9.

DJ, as in 'Does the Job'

The biggest hit of the game belonged to -- who else? -- DJ LeMahieu, who delivered a go-ahead single up the middle in the ninth inning to give New York a 10-9 lead. The ball was the very definition of a "seeing eye single," appearing to bounce at least a half-dozen times before it reached the center fielder while Urshela scored what proved to be the winning run for the Yankees. The hit probability, according to Statcast, was 19 percent. And in typical, clutch LeMahieu style, the momentous single came on an 0-2 pitch from Hand.

Rain, rain, go away

The rain, for a while at least, didn't go away. In fact, there wasn't one rain delay in this contest, but two -- the start of the game was delayed 43 minutes, and the game was then delayed again for 33 minutes in the bottom of the first inning.

Gary giveth (with a little help), and Gary taketh away

Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez, who has struggled at the plate this season, was involved in two unusual moments in the game. The first came in the sixth inning, when he connected for a two-run homer off hard-throwing rookie right-hander Triston McKenzie. It wasn't unusual for Sánchez to hit a home run (albeit it's been a less frequent occurrence this season than in seasons past); it was unusual that the ball he hit got over the fence at all given that he got under it (it wasn't a "barrel" according to Statcast) and the hit probability was only 12 percent. Nevertheless, it counts just the same, and it was a crucial hit for New York.

Another unusual play could have proven catastrophic for the Yankees. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Chapman was cruising toward a save in the AL Wild Card Series clincher. And he struck out Oscar Mercado for what should have been the final out of the game, except Sánchez didn't catch Chapman's 89.5 mph slider. It was a passed ball that resulted in Mercado reaching first base as the tying run. Fortunately for Sánchez and the Yankees, Chapman struck out pinch-hitter Austin Hedges to finally end it.

One for the books

Beyond the one hour and 16 minutes of total delay due to rain, the game itself lasted four hours and 50 minutes, making it the longest nine-inning game in MLB history -- not just postseason history, but MLB history, period.

And that's not all -- Indians pitchers issued 12 walks in the contest, the most by one team in a nine-inning postseason game in MLB history. The two clubs combined to walk 19 batters, tying the record for the most in any nine-inning postseason game. It matched the record set by the Yankees and Braves in Game 3 of the 1957 World Series.

The Indians have lost 10 consecutive elimination games, the most in postseason history. And it was Cleveland's third loss in a postseason elimination game it was leading in the ninth inning, an MLB record (prior to Wednesday's loss, 1996 ALDS and 1997 World Series). And on the other side of that coin, the Yankees have won three postseason clinchers after trailing in the ninth inning or later, also an MLB record (1939 World Series, 1977 AL Championship Series).