Friday, May 20, 2016
The contest started innocently enough, with the Red Eagles scoring twice in the top of the third inning when Jonathan Herrera singled in Adelaido Martinez from second as Herrera advanced to third on the throw to the plate by Tabasco centerfielder Rogelio Noris. Herrera then scored on Alex Romero's ground out to second. The Olmecas got one run back in the bottom of the fourth when Abel Martinez lined a single up the middle to bring in Uriak Marquez from third.
However, Veracruz made it a 5-1 game with three more scores in the top of the fifth inning on Enrique Osorio's bases-load double off Tabasco starter Logan Duran. The score stood until the bottom of the seventh, when the Olmecas plated four tallies off Aguilas relievers Abraham Elvira, Norman Elenes and Roberto Espinoza as Tabasco batted through the order. The key blow was Robinzon Diaz' two-run homer to straightaway center off Elenes with two out.
Little did anyone realize at the time that Diaz' bomb would produce the last runs for either team for the next 16 innings. It's not as though neither team had their chances. In particular, Veracruz baserunners reached third base five times the rest of the way but came away scoreless. Their best opportunity may have been in the top of the 22nd when Herrera stroked a two-out double off Olmecas reliever Angel Araiza, who then intentionally walked Romero to set up a force out at any base. Leonardo Rodriguez then knocked Araiza's first pitch for a single to right and Herrera tried to come all the way around to score the go-ahead run, but was nailed at the plate by a throw from Tabasco veteran Christian Quintero to catcher Adrian Gutierrez.
The score remained knotted at 5-5 as the clock passed 3AM and the game went into the bottom of the 23rd as the Olmecas came up to face reliever Misael Nunez, a 21-year-old lefty merely making his Liga debut.
Gutierrez drilled Nunez' second pitch up the middle for a single and advanced to second when Ivan Bellazetin tapped a sacrifice back to the mound. That brought up Yosmany Guerra, who lofted a 1-0 pitch to Osorio in center for the second out of the stanza. Nunez then intentionally walked Quintero to get to Marquez, who watched one strike go by, swung and missed for a second strike and fouled off two more pitches before cracking an 0-2 pitch for a single to left. Gutierrez (pictured scoring the winning run) rounded third and headed for home, beating the throw from Carlos Lopez to the plate to end the game mercifully for everyone on the field along with the few bodies remaining in the stands from among the 1,438 fans who attended the contest at Parque Centenario del 27 de Febrero.
The 23-inning endurance race tied the LMB record for longest game, matching Aguascalientes' 6-2 win in Cordoba on April 28, 1977 and Mexico City's 2-1 triumph in Veracruz on June 30, 2001. Araiza pitched scoreless ball over the final six innings for the win to go to 3-1 for the season while Nunez absorbed the loss as a Liga debutante. Veteran first baseman Abel Martinez, who was only activated by the Olmecas last Friday, went 5-for-9 for the victors with an RBI single and the 38-year-old even a stolen base, although you can't really say he caught Veracruz catcher Alan Espinoza napping since the swipe occurred in the sixth frame. Martinez is now 17-for-27 (all singles) over six games for a batting average of .630.
Special kudos go to umpires Carlos Campechano, Jose Higuera, Erwin Zambrano and Ulises Dominguez for hanging in there all 23 innings of a game during which the thermometer showed 96 degrees for the opening pitch and only fell below 80 near game's end. In particular, Campechano deserves an award for working home plate behind a mask and chest protector for all 672 pitches. Next of kin has been notified.