Extra inning games have a variety of effects on a large cross-section of baseball people. It stretches bullpens to the brink. It increases the stress on a manager, actually forcing him at times to ponder the double switch. It forces the broadcasting team to stop recycling stale anecdotes and actually talk about the game like it matters. It brings joy to baseball zealots and grief to their lovers, hoping it ends quickly so they can escape the cold and go home.
Last night's battle against the Minnesota Twins was the Detroit Tigers' first extra-inning game of the season. They were the last team this year to finally play nine-plus. The outcome of the game, a 14-10 Twins victory capped by Joe Crede's 13th-inning Denny's breakfast home run, is something I'd rather not talk about. My therapist says I'm not ready to confront Brandon Lyon in a calm manner quite yet.
The more digestible (and less homicidal) thoughts came during the regulation portion of the baseball game, where Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya had his longest outing of his spotty career. His 47 pitches is a career high, and his 2 2/3 innings is the second-longest appearance in terms of outs. Three years ago, on June 11, 2006, he went three full innings to earn a save.
Zoom-Zoom had a blown save in the eighth when his first pitch to Jason Kubel smashed into the home run baggie. After an inning and change of work, the normally fragile Zumaya stayed in there to pitch another frame, the ninth, tied 9-9, and he was throwin' 99 mph. It was, to say least, Turk Wendell's favorite inning of baseball in quite some time.
Was temp manager Lloyd McClendon — Jim Leyland was ejected in the game — using Zumaya because he knew this game could go many, many more innings beyond the ninth? If so, that's a hell of a foresight, and I'd have nobody else at my side when I pick lotto numbers.
Are they testing Zumaya's arm to see if he can withstand more than just 20-pitch outings? Do they want to see if he'll go back on the disabled list, lickety split?
Between Dontrelle Willis's optimistic start (which, by the way, the fact that he made it back to the big leagues means I probably owe someone five bucks), Granderson's 13th-inning balked-in run, and Lyon's subsequent meltdown, Zumaya's appearance still stood out to me in a long game that featured more nutty events than the Laff-A-Lympics. I think I even saw Ryan Raburn reach base. Okay, honey, I'm delusional; it's probably time to go home.