December 2, 2020

Washington Nationals NLDS Game 2 Review: Belt’s homer in 18th ends longest game in playoff history

Brandon Belt hit a solo home run in the top of the 18th inning off Tanner Roark and the San Francisco Giants beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 in the longest game by time — and tying the longest game by inning — in the history of Major League Baseball playoffs.

The official time of the game was 6:23.

The Nationals now trail in the series 2-0 and travel to San Francisco to face 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner. Doug Fister will oppose him in the Monday game.

Jordan Zimmermann and Tim Hudson were terrific in the first half of this same-game double-header, but neither factored in the decision, obviously. San Francisco won its 10th consecutive playoff game — a National League record — with eight of those wins coming on the road.Zimmermann was masterful. Over 8 2/3 innings, he limited the Giants to three hits and one walk, striking out six, and retiring 20 straight until a walk in the ninth with two outs ended his evening.

Unfortunately, Drew Storen was victimized for two consecutive hits at that point and the Giants tied the game to force extra innings.

Hudson was terrific in his own right, allowing just one run on seven hits and no walks over 7 1/3 innings, striking out eight.

The bullpens then combined for eight scoreless innings until Belt clobbered a 3-2 pitch from Roark — the Nats ninth pitcher of the night — into the upper deck in right field.

The Nats got on the board in the third inning. Asdrubal Cabrera lead off against Hudson with a double to the left field corner. He went to third on Denard Span’s ground out, and scored on Anthony Rendon’s RBI single.

Zimmermann cruised through the middle innings picking up steam as he went. He retired 15 in a row after allowing a single to Travis Ishikawa in the third inning, generating ground out after ground out.

In the eighth, Brandon Belt led off with a pop fly to short left field. Bryce Harper and Denard Span converged as Ian Desmond went out with his back to the infield. At the last, Desmond found the ball from over his right shoulder and snapped up the catch seemingly from out of nowhere.

Zimmermann then struck out Brandon Crawford, after a foul ball missed the right field line by mere inches, and Ishikawa lined out to a diving Adam LaRoche.

Sitting on 88 pitches, Zimmermann came back for the ninth. He struck out pinch-hitter Matt Duffy with his 92nd pitch, then got Gregor Blanco to pop up to short. Zimmermann then missed on a couple of very borderline calls and walked Joe Panik, ending his night.

Despite Zimmermann at just 100 pitches and having just retired 20 in a row, manager Matt Williams called on closer Drew Storen to face Buster Posey. Posey singled to move up Panik, then on an 0-1 count, Pablo Sandoval doubled into the left field corner. Panik scored easily and Harper’s relay went to Desmond, who fired slightly up the third base line to Wilson Ramos.

Posey slid to the inside and Ramos’ tag was high on Posey’s hip. The original call was out at home. After a replay, the call was upheld, as Posey’s foot bounced over the plate on the slide and the tag was applied before Posey touched home.

But the damage was done. And the Nats went on order in the bottom of the ninth to force extra.

After Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless top of the 10th, all hell broke loose. Cabrera had a high pitch called a strike and took exception with it, gesturing to home plate umpire Vic Carpazza. The next pitch was even higher, and Carpazza rang up Cabrera and Cabrera went ballistic, slamming his bat on home plate and his helmet followed.

Carpazza naturally gave Cabrera the boot, and when Williams came out to defend his player, the manager was tossed as well.

Ryan Zimmerman pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, singled, and was replaced by pinch-runner Danny Espinosa, but Denard Span grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

The teams traded zeros from that point until the 18th when Belt ended the longest game in baseball playoff history.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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