It was the longest game in Major League history. After five hours and 50 minutes of ups and downs, the rollercoaster came to a halt with a homerun from the Houston Astros, ending the series in disappointment for the Atlanta Braves as they watched the Astros advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS). The series record was 3-1 for the Astros and Braves, respectively.The first two innings were evenly matched, with neither team scoring a single run. In the third inning, however, the game heated up once Adam LaRoche, who is no Chipper Jones, stepped up to bat in the top of the third inning. LaRoche, who had been surprising fans with his postseason batting average of .500 compared to his .259 average for the season, hit a grand slam, bringing the Braves to a commanding 4-0 lead. This grand slam led the Braves to believe that their future was looking bright with a fifth game in sight.
Each team scored runs in during the fifth inning, bringing the score to 5-1, while the Braves still held a commanding four-run lead. In the eight inning, Brian McCann stepped up to bat and hit a homerun for the Braves, giving them a five-run lead, which many thought was enough to secure the game.
However, once Kyle Farnsworth took the mound in the bottom of the eight, the once bright sky for the Braves became very cloudy. Tim Hudson had pitched the first seven innings of the game, and then threw two pitches before Farnsworth was sent in to relieve him.
During the bottom of the eighth, Farnsworth allowed a grand slam by Astro’s outfielder Lance Berkman. The score was 6-5, with Braves only ahead by one.
“It was supposed to be a fastball away. Anywhere else, it probably would have been a fly out or a double off the wall,” stated Farnsworth, according to MLB.com.
Farnsworth allowed another homerun in the bottom of the ninth by Brad Ausmus. This homerun tied the game at 6-6, brining the game into nine extra innings.
The first eight extra innings were scoreless. The Braves tried three different pitchers: Chris Reitsma, John Thomson and Jim Brower. Then Joey Devine took over the mound in the 18th inning. The game was over shortly after that.
The Astros Chris Burke stepped up to bat in the 18th inning, facing Devine, and proved to be the game-savior. Burke’s homerun came as a big surprise to everyone considering his statistics for the season. Out of 318 at-bats, Burke only hit five homeruns. Burke’s biggest hit of his career clinched the playoff series for the Astros, ending the Braves season.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of the whole game isn’t the surprise homerun by Burke. Perhaps it is Farnsworth’s unusual performance and even stranger attitude after the upsetting loss for the Braves.
Before the post season began, Farnsworth announced that after the 2005 season, he would be leaving the Braves to become a free agent for the 2006 season. This leads many fans to question whether or not Farnsworth truly put his all into the game. Judging from his attitude after the game, signs point to no.
While most of the team was displaying disgust and displeasure at the loss, Farnsworth did not react well to interview questions, quickly shrugging them off before exiting the clubhouse.
After allowing a grand slam, which may have very well been what caused the Braves to lose the game and a chance at a fifth game, one would assume that he would be very upset with himself.
However, Farnsworth displayed a different attitude than expected, responding to questions this way: “It’s one of those things you can’t worry about.
That guy gets paid to hit the ball and I get paid to throw the ball. He just won that time.”
Does that sound like a man who truly put his heart into the game? I didn’t think so either However, there were quite a few postseason records set/tied during this roller coaster of a game. This was the longest game in regard to innings, with 18 innings played. This was also the longest game in regard to time, with five hours and 50 minutes of play. This game tied the most number of players used on one team with the Houston Astros using 23 players. The other two games in which 23 players were used were teams competing against Atlanta. This game also had the most players used overall, with a total of 42; 23 from the Astros and 19 from the Braves. More amazingly, this was the first postseason game to have two grand slams; one from Adam LaRoche for the Braves, and the other from Lance Berkman for the Astros.
Despite the high point of the game, such as all of the records and LaRoche’s outstanding performance for the Braves, I could not help but be disappointed with the loss, as I am sure most other Braves fans were. Was it Farnsworth that truly let the game slip through the Braves clutch, or was there some other factor at hand? We may never know, but as I sat decked out in my Braves gear at the end of the 18 innings, a frown was all I could muster.