A Look at the Longest Major League Baseball Games of All Time

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMarch 29, 2017

A Look at the Longest Major League Baseball Games of All Time

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    Brandon Belt and the San Francisco Giants won the longest playoff game in MLB history.
    Brandon Belt and the San Francisco Giants won the longest playoff game in MLB history.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    MLB fans longing for faster games would have detested these matchups.

    Think three-and-a-half hours is too much time watching men throw balls and swing bats? That's a sprint compared to the longest bouts in league history, all of which lasted more than six hours before declaring a winner.

    Few followers would welcome the 2017 World Baseball Classic's procedure of starting frames from the 11th onward with runners on base. Yet the following list of longest games—determined by time, not innings played—provide sample studies of what the tournament hoped to avoid when establishing the controversial rule.

    With no limit to how many innings two sides can play before breaking a stalemate, these contests all at least doubled the standard nine-inning affair. Mercifully, after hours testing even a diehard baseball fan's will, they finally ended.

15. Washington Senators vs. Cleveland Indians, Sept. 14, 1971

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    Cleveland Stadium hosted the first 16 innings of a 20-inning marathon between the Senators and Indians in 1971.
    Cleveland Stadium hosted the first 16 innings of a 20-inning marathon between the Senators and Indians in 1971.Robert Riger/Getty Images

    Score: Senators 8, Indians 6 (20)

    Time: 6:15

    Aside from avoiding last place in the American League East, neither the Washington Senators nor Cleveland Indians had anything at stake during the dog days of 1971's season. So both sides probably weren't jazzed to face each other in a meaningless doubleheader.

    Instead of getting home early after a brisk one-hour, 54-minute affair in the first game, they played 16-plus innings of a contest that was completed six days later at a different location.

    Cleveland jumped to a 5-2 lead with four seventh-inning runs, but Washington stormed back with a three-run ninth. Neither team could find the scoreboard, prompting the game to pause and resume at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium—it started in Cleveland—on Sept. 20, when the Senators scored three runs in the 20th to secure a grueling victory.

14. Houston Astros vs. San Diego Padres, Aug. 15, 1980

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    Rookie Dave Smith, pictured later in his career, threw five scoreless innings from the bullpen in an Astros 20-inning win.
    Rookie Dave Smith, pictured later in his career, threw five scoreless innings from the bullpen in an Astros 20-inning win.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Score: Astros 3, Padres 1 (20)

    Time: 6:17

    The Houston Astros and San Diego Padres combined for 31 hits and 13 walks on Aug. 15, 1980, but just four of those baserunners crossed home plate.

    San Diego and Houston stranded 21 and 13 runners, respectively, during a six-hour, 17-minute contest featuring 15 consecutive scoreless innings. With the help of two Padres errors, the Astros broke the drought in the 20th.

    Joe Morgan, owner of a .392 career on-base percentage, went 1-for-9 atop the Astros order. Nevertheless, they escaped with a triumph after receiving 9.2 combined scoreless frames from Frank LaCorte and Dave Smith.

13. San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals, Oct. 4, 2014

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    Brandon Belt ended the longest game in postseason history with an 18th-inning home run.
    Brandon Belt ended the longest game in postseason history with an 18th-inning home run.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Score: Giants 2, Nationals 1 (18)

    Time: 6:23

    Before winning their third championship in five years, the San Francisco Giants outlasted the Washington Nationals in MLB's longest postseason game ever.

    Neither squad could muster any offense in the National League Division Series' second game. After San Francisco tied it at one during the ninth, the squads traded zeroes for eight innings.

    Bryce Harper (0-for-7, two strikeouts) was one of seven starters to not record a hit.

    Right around midnight, Brandon Belt ended a game that started at 5:38 p.m. local time with a solo shot off Tanner Roark, a starter pressed into emergency relief duty. Yusmeiro Petit held down the fort for San Francisco, limiting Washington to one hit over six sensational innings from the bullpen.

12. New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins, June 8, 2013

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    Kevin Slowey pitched seven scoreless innings in relief, leading the Marlins to a 2-1 win over the Mets in 20 innings.
    Kevin Slowey pitched seven scoreless innings in relief, leading the Marlins to a 2-1 win over the Mets in 20 innings.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Score: Marlins 2, Mets 1 (20)

    Time: 6:25

    New York Mets fans who feel the franchise is out to make their lives miserable will see their frequent appearance among the longest games as a metaphor for their suffering. Their first of four inclusions is also their second 20-inning game this decade.

    On June 8, 2013, Citi Field was treated to a marquee pitcher's duel of Jose Fernandez vs. Matt Harvey. Both phenoms delivered, yielding one run apiece, but the bout later turned into another stingy showdown between Kevin Slowey and Shaun Marcum.

    Entering in the 13th, Slowey struck out eight over seven scoreless frames. Marcum, who started against the Marlins eight days earlier, threw a game-high 105 pitches. After matching zeroes with Slowey for seven innings, he relinquished a trio of singles leading the Marlins to a 2-1 victory. 

11. Detroit Tigers vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Aug. 10, 2014

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    The Blue Jays thwarted the Tigers with a 19th-inning walk-off single from Jose Bautista.
    The Blue Jays thwarted the Tigers with a 19th-inning walk-off single from Jose Bautista.Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Score: Blue Jays 6, Tigers 5 (19)

    Time: 6:37

    According to FanGraphs, nobody has thrown more innings than Mark Buehrle over the last 20 years (3,283.1). Unfortunately for the Toronto Blue Jays, the durable veteran lasted just 3.1 frames against the Detroit Tigers in a 19-inning affair.

    Detroit pegged the southpaw with three first-inning runs, but its offense stalled after gaining an early 5-0 edge. Seven different Toronto relievers, led by six frames from Chad Jenkins, recorded 47 outs without surrendering a run.

    Hitless in nine prior plate appearances, Jose Bautista produced a walk-off single off Rick Porcello—whose now-Boston Red Sox teammate David Price started for Detroit—in the 19th. Despite the middling score, the offensive juggernauts combined for 39 hits.

10. Chicago White Sox vs. Washington Senators, June 12, 1967

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    The White Sox fell short against the Senators in a 22-inning bout.
    The White Sox fell short against the Senators in a 22-inning bout.Anonymous/Associated Press

    Score: Senators 6, White Sox 5 (22)

    Time: 6:38

    The Senators had a long 1967. Of their 18 extra-inning games, five veered into the 16th or beyond. A 20-inning, five-hour and 40-minute game didn't even the top the list, as they also went 22 innings, six hours and 38 minutes.

    Right before a seventh-inning stretch that wouldn't even mark the one-third point, the Chicago White Sox erased a 4-1 deficit. They looked poised to steal a victory when Don Buford hit an RBI single in the 10th, but Washington's Jim King again evened the score with a sacrifice fly.

    They stayed even at five until the bottom of the 22nd, when Paul Casanova charmed D.C. Stadium attendees with a walk-off single that sent everyone home. 

9. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, April 10, 2015

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    Starter Wade Miley was the first of nine Red Sox pitchers to appear in their 19-inning victory over the Yankees early in 2015.
    Starter Wade Miley was the first of nine Red Sox pitchers to appear in their 19-inning victory over the Yankees early in 2015.Elsa/Getty Images

    Score: Red Sox 6, Yankees 5 (19)

    Time: 6:49

    The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have one of sports' longest rivalries, and that's not just in terms of years spent as direct competitors.

    Both teams have featured high-powered, yet patient offenses throughout their 21st century feud, making them prime candidates for lengthy matchups. When down 3-0 in 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox started their historic comeback by winning consecutive games each lasting over five hours. 

    This early-April 2015 meeting had less at stake, but both teams plundered their charged bullpens for a total of 17 pitchers. 

    The game didn't stop after nine, and neither did the scoring. Boston struck in the 16th and 18th frames, but New York countered its run both times. In the 19th, Mookie Betts gave Boston its third lead in four frames with a sacrifice fly. This time, the American League East foes did not answer back.

8. New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals, April 17, 2010

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    The Mets and Cardinals went scoreless for 18 innings on April 17, 2010.
    The Mets and Cardinals went scoreless for 18 innings on April 17, 2010.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Score: Mets 2, Cardinals 1 (20)

    Time: 6:53

    If ever planning to watch the Mets play the St. Louis Cardinals, get some rest first.

    The two National League squads orchestrated two of baseball's eight longest games ever. This doesn't include a 2015 matchup that spanned 18 innings and compelled an exhausted Keith Hernandez to ask for whiskey in the broadcast booth. 

    Perhaps the former first baseman's two old teams simply want fans to experience the art of Hernandez's disgusted sighing through an unforgiving baseball game that refuses to end. By the 15th inning, Mets fans were rooting for him to escape purgatory more than a Mets win.

    On April 17, 2010, it took 20 innings and nearly seven hours in a game that was scoreless through 18. Both sides went a combined 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

    When the Mets finally crossed home plate in both the 19th and 20th innings, it was against Joe Mather, a position player pressed into pitching. As punishment for squandering 18 innings of shutdown ball and blowing a save, Francisco Rodriguez was credited with a win.

7. Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays, Sept. 20, 2013

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    David DeJesus cemented a critical late-season win for the Rays after 18 innings against the Orioles.
    David DeJesus cemented a critical late-season win for the Rays after 18 innings against the Orioles.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Score: Rays 5, Orioles 4 (18)

    Time: 6:54

    In the thick of a heated AL wild-card race, neither the Baltimore Orioles nor Tampa Bay Rays could afford a loss on Sept. 20, 2013. Their battle for a pivotal win lasted until roughly 2 a.m. local time in an 18-inning marathon.

    Both bullpens were already worn down from a long season, so the AL East clubs exploited expanded September rosters and used 21 total pitchers. Rookie Jake Odorizzi auditioned for a 2014 rotation role by throwing 3.2 scoreless innings from Tampa Bay's bullpen. 

    A dozen Rays hitters collectively went 2-for-36 in the Nos. 3-7 spots, but leadoff hitter David DeJesus saved one of his four hits for a walk-off single off Bud Norris, a starter called upon with no other fresh relievers available. 

    "Long. Devastating, obviously," Orioles third baseman Manny Machado told Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun after the loss. "Would have been much better if we would have came out with the win. But they came [out] on top."

    While the Orioles fell from the playoff hunt, the Rays beat the Texas Rangers in a tiebreaker game and eliminated the Indians in the AL Wild Card Game. They eventually ran out of steam against the Red Sox in the American League Division Series, but they wouldn't have lasted that long without preserving a long, long Friday night.

6. New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers, June 24, 1962

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    The Yankees removed Mickey Mantle (pictured) early in a seven-hour game, but replacement right fielder Jack Reed won the contest with the only home run of his career.
    The Yankees removed Mickey Mantle (pictured) early in a seven-hour game, but replacement right fielder Jack Reed won the contest with the only home run of his career.Associated Press

    Score: Yankees 9, Tigers 7 (22)

    Time: 7:00

    And now for the seven-hour grinds, both a treat and exasperating challenge to the most avid baseball fans.

    The Yankees and Tigers spent all of their offensive capital early on June 24, 1962. After three innings, the Bronx Bombers held a 7-6 lead, which Detroit erased in the sixth before 15 innings of goose eggs.

    With the game tied in the seventh, New York pulled Mickey Mantle for defensive reinforcements. This would seem like a rueful decision, knowing seven plate appearances went to three substantially inferior hitters, but it created an opportunity for the unlikeliest of heroes.

    Jack Reed, a seldom-used player who retired a .233/.308/.326 hitter, belted the first and only home run of his three-year career.

    Despite starter Bob Turley recording one out, the Yankees won a 22-inning contest with 13.1 combined scoreless frames from Tex Clevenger and Jim Bouton.

5. St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets, Sept. 11, 1974

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    Bake McBride scored from first base on a wild pickoff throw in the 25th inning.
    Bake McBride scored from first base on a wild pickoff throw in the 25th inning.Associated Press

    Score: Cardinals 4, Mets 3 (25)

    Time: 7:04

    In terms of innings, only one game—a 26-inning 1920 contest between the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves lasting a crisp three hours and 50 minutes—went longer than this 25-inning soiree between the Cardinals and Mets.

    A 25-inning contest today would be lucky to end in under nine hours. Luckily, this 1974 matchup happened in a time of fewer pitching changes and commercial obligations. It flew by in just seven hours and four minutes.

    Starter Jerry Koosman went nine innings, but that didn't spare the Mets bullpen from a long day. While Jerry Cram posted goose eggs for eight innings for the Mets, Cardinals reliever Claude Osteen one-upped him with 9.1 innings without yielding a run.

    They went a cumulative 4-for-33 with runners in scoring position, stranding 45 runners on base. Following 15 scoreless innings, it took a bizarre finish for St. Louis to salvage a win.

    Bake McBride opened the 25th with a leadoff single. He then scored all the way from first on a failed pickoff attempt, which feels like a fittingly sloppy way to end a game after seven hours.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Aug. 24, 2013

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    Heath Bell allowed two runs in the eighth, opening the floodgates for an 18-inning, seven-hour game.
    Heath Bell allowed two runs in the eighth, opening the floodgates for an 18-inning, seven-hour game.Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

    Score: Diamondbacks 12, Phillies 7 (18)

    Time: 7:06

    Featuring the tried-and-true formula of a long extra-inning trudge, both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies bullpens bailed out some lackluster starters. 

    Then again, the Arizona Diamondbacks could have saved a few hours and nine innings by preserving a 6-1 lead. Instead, Joe Thatcher coughed up two runs in the eighth before Heath Bell allowed another two. From there, the door shut on scoring.

    A game with 28 walks and 41 stranded runners ended when the Phillies sent outfielder Casper Wells to the mound. The Diamondbacks tagged him for five runs, ending the summer slog at 2:12 a.m.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Houston Astros, June, 3, 1989

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    Fernando Valenzuela wound up playing first base in the final frames of a 22-inning game.
    Fernando Valenzuela wound up playing first base in the final frames of a 22-inning game.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Score: Astros 5, Dodgers 4 (22)

    Time: 7:14

    It's always fun seeing a position player pitch, but how about a pitcher playing a position?

    After riding defending NL Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser for seven shutout innings from the bullpen, the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled their ace before the 21st. With L.A. already having used eight hurlers, Jeff Hamilton took the mound after going 3-for-9 with a walk at third base.

    Eddie Murray moved across the diamond to man the hot corner. Entering the game at first base? Fernando Valenzuela, who was unavailable to pitch after starting the previous day.

    A third baseman pitching and a pitcher fielding at first base worked fine for one frame, but the Astros attacked Hamilton for a winning run in the 22nd. An assortment of six relievers kept Los Angeles off the scoreboard for 17 innings.

2. San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets, May 31, 1964

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    Gaylord Perry led the Giants to victory in baseball's second-longest game with 10 scoreless innings from the bullpen.
    Gaylord Perry led the Giants to victory in baseball's second-longest game with 10 scoreless innings from the bullpen.Robert Houston/Associated Press

    Score: Giants 8, Mets 6 (23)

    Time: 7:23

    On May 31, 1964, the Giants and Mets cruised through the opening slate of their doubleheader with a two-and-a-half-hour game. Little did they know, an encore nearly five hours longer awaited.

    The second game persisted for 23 innings when the Giants squandered an early 6-1 lead. They regained the advantage with a triple, double and single from Jim Davenport, Del Crandall and Jesus Alou, respectively, for two runs.

    After pitching two innings earlier in the day, Tom Sturdivant returned for 2.2 more. Yet that pales in comparison to the turnaround from Larry Bearnarth, who authored seven scoreless frames after previously tossing two in the opening contest.

    Juan Marichal, meanwhile, spared San Francisco's bullpen with a complete-game win in the first contest. Another Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry, later saved the Giants with 10 spotless frames in relief.

1. Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago White Sox, May 8, 1984

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    Tom Seaver capped off an eight-hour game by pitching the 25th and final inning for the White Sox.
    Tom Seaver capped off an eight-hour game by pitching the 25th and final inning for the White Sox.Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    Score: White Sox 7, Brewers 6 (25)

    Time: 8:06

    Only one game in MLB history lagged through an entire average workday or recommended night's sleep.

    The contest between the White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers went so long that play paused with a 3-3 score after 17 innings. The suspension does not factor into the game time of eight hours and six minutes.

    This lengthy matchup's relief hero, Juan Agosto, silenced Milwaukee's bats for seven innings. Yet an even more draining assignment went to Carlton Fisk, who caught all 25 frames for Chicago.

    It could have been avoided if Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers converted the save. He instead forfeited a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, eventually costing Milwaukee a victory.

    When Harold Baines ended the longest game ever with a 25th-inning walk-off homer, Tom Seaver notched the win. Then everyone finally went home and earned some much-needed sleep.

             

    Note: All game information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.