Guardians vs. Rays: Four crazy stats from Cleveland’s marathon victory in the Wild Card Series

The Cleveland Guardians defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 in a 15-inning marathon (box score) on Saturday in Game 2 of their American League Wild Card Series. The Guardians, as a result, will advance to the AL Division Series to play a best-of-five set against the New York Yankees. The Rays, meanwhile, are heading home to begin their offseason after being swept in the best-of-three series. Tampa Bay scored just one run in two games (24 innings)

Outfielder Oscar Gonzalez homered to lead off the bottom of the 15th against former Guardian Corey Kluber. That came after the Rays had runners on the corners and one out in the top of the inning. Sam Hentges was able to coerce strikeouts from both Francisco Mejia and Jose Siri, ending the threat on six pitches.

The victory was not easily achieved. Rather, the Guardians and Rays were scoreless entering the 15th inning, making it the first postseason game ever to reach such depths without anyone crossing the plate. The next longest scoreless postseason game, the opener of the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds Wild Card Series in 2020, was scoreless through 12 1/2 innings. The Braves then won in the bottom of the 13th.

This contest now serves as the longest playoff game in either franchise’s history.

As a way of paying tribute to the postseason’s first marathon game, here are four wild statistics that sum up how much pitching dominated the afternoon.

1. The longest scoreless playoff game ever

While this was only the second postseason game to ever be scoreless heading into the 12th or later, it was the sixth postseason game to be scoreless through 10 innings, according to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs. This was just the second time since the last round of expansion (1998) that a playoff game was scoreless into extra innings:

That aforementioned Reds-Braves game saw the Braves win 1-0 on a Freddie Freeman walk-off single in the bottom of the 13th. The Braves would also win the subsequent game by a 5-0 margin, ending the series before the Reds could score. The Rays can take solace in knowing they scored one run on a Jose Siri homer in Game 1.

2. A new record for combined strikeouts

Again, pitching dominated the afternoon. Need more evidence? Fine, fine. The two pitching staffs combined for 39 strikeouts, a new postseason record. (The Guardians were responsible for 20 of those, meaning the two sides were nearly split 50/50.)

There were 104 plate appearances taken throughout the game, meaning that 37.5 percent of them ended in a strikeout. For perspective, the qualified pitcher with the highest strikeout percentage during the regular season was San Francisco Giants left-hander Carlos Rodón. Rodón punched out 33.4 percent of the batters he saw.

3. The pitchers combined for a 0.31 ERA

Sometimes a game just demands the reprinting of stat lines as a means of establishing a point. Let’s do that below by showing what each team’s pitching staff managed:

  • Rays: Eight pitchers, 14 innings, five hits allowed (four singles), one run, three walks, 19 strikeouts
  • Guardians: Eight pitchers, 15 innings, six hits allowed (all singles), zero runs, five walks, 20 strikeouts

Combined, that’s 16 pitchers, 29 innings, 11 hits (10 singles), one run, eight walks, and 39 strikeouts.

4. Platinum sombreros for both sides

Entering the day, three players had ever recorded “platinum sombreros,” or five-strikeout games in the playoffs: George Pipgras (1932), Reggie Sanders (1995), and Harrison Bader (2020). As Timothy Burke noted on Twitterthis game saw two players join that group: Guardians second baseman Andrés Giménez and Rays outfielder Jose Siri.

Giménez and Siri combined to go 0 for 11 with 10 strikeouts. Credit to Siri for managing to put a ball into play: he hit a fly out to center in the 11th.