At six months and 162 games, the Major League Baseball season is long — especially for teams that are essentially out of playoff contention by May or June. It can be tough for the players to grind out every game late in a 100-loss season, and it’s not easy for the fans to watch those late-season games of bad teams. But, as ESPN the Magazine writer Tim Kurkjian likes to say, you never know when you might see something happen for the first time during a game. And even bad teams can set a new baseball record. That’s what happened on September 24, when the Rockies and Giants — who combined for 176 losses this season — played a meaningless game.
A seemingly normal September game
The game began as a seemingly ordinary Tuesday night game in San Francisco in late September. The Giants started their best pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, and he threw seven innings, allowing four runs. Rockies starter Jeff Hoffman only last 3-1/3 innings before he was taken out after letting three runs cross the plate.
The game was tied at four when Bumgarner left after the seventh, and both teams scored a run in the eighth to tie it up at 5-5 — and that remained the score through the 15th inning. The Rockies scored three runs in the top of the 16th inning off of Giants reliever Dereck Rodriguez, and they held on in the bottom of the inning to win it, with Bryan Shaw earning the save with a perfect 16th inning.
The Giants and Rockies set a new baseball record
In all, the team’s combined to use 25 pitchers in the game, the most ever in a single game in Major League Baseball history. The Rockies used 12 pitchers, while the Giants needed 13 hurlers to get through the lengthy 16-inning affair. After the starters were taken out and the parade of relievers began.
None of the relief pitchers threw more than two innings in the game, with seven relievers — five of them on San Francisco — throwing less than an inning, with Fernando Abad facing just one hitter, a strikeout of Charlie Blackmon.
Why the record may not be broken
The teams had so many pitchers available because of the September roster expansion, which allows teams to have up to 40 players on their rosters, instead of the typical 25. That, however, is changing next season — which is why this is a baseball record that may never be broken.
Active rosters in September will be limited to 28 players starting in 2020, and MLB is instituting a new rule that relievers must face a minimum of three batters or pitch until the end of the half-inning — save for an injury. So you won’t have a situation like Abad entering the game with no outs in the inning, facing one batter, and then leaving the game. Both of those new rules next season are part of commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to speed up the game by limiting the number of pitching changes.
This game came at the end of what were disappointing seasons for both teams.
The Giants weren’t expected to be competitive, as they are in the midst of a rebuilding period and just ended their third consecutive sub-.500 season. It was a tough way for three-time World Series champ and longtime manager Bruce Bochy to end his San Francisco career.
The Rockies, on the other hand, came into the season thinking they had a shot at a wild card, or even challenging the Dodgers for the division crown. The Rockies made the playoffs each of the last two seasons, and they won 91 games last year, but they managed to win just 71 games this season and finished in fourth place in the NL West. So this record-setting game ultimately serves as a footnote on a lost season for each team.