DENVER – Kris Bryant was in a race to beat the rising sun. He won, too, with his head hitting the hotel pillow in Denver moments before sunrise.
A well-earned victory for the Chicago Cubs third baseman after a draining 5-4, 18-inning loss to the New York Yankees in a game that lasted 6 hours, 5 minutes and spilled into Monday morning. By innings, it was the longest interleague game in major league history.
Now, the Cubs are bracing for another long night because of weather in the Mile High City. There was so much hail that it had to be swept off the tarp and the sprinklers turned on to melt the ice in the outfield grass. The forecast is for more gloomy weather Monday night and the start was already delayed.
There’s no rest for the Yankees, either, who arrived in Cincinnati after a short flight from Chicago at 5:08 a.m.
Just part of the game.
“As rough as it was yesterday, it’s kind of cool to experience it, just to have that story in your pocket and to say, ‘Look, we played 18 innings, got in [early], had to play in Colorado and there’s a hail storm,’” said Bryant, who is making his first start of the season in right field. “It’s crazy.”
The Cubs arrived at the ballpark a little later than usual. Coffee was the sought-after refreshment in the clubhouse and a seat on the sofa was a coveted commodity.
“I feel surprisingly good,” Bryant said.
Maybe his plan worked. Bryant purposely didn’t sleep on the plane so he would be completely worn out when they arrived at the team hotel. Keeping his eyes open proved difficult after Chicago’s longest home game since an 8-7 loss in 18 innings on Sept. 2, 1986, against Houston — a contest that was actually suspended and finished the next day.
“I’ve never been the type to pull an all-nighter in college, studying, or stay out super late,” Bryant said. “Anytime I experience anything like that, it’s so weird for me.”The Yankees know the feeling. Players drank caffeinated beverages in the clubhouse before the first game of their interleague series against the Reds on Monday. Reliever Tommy Layne yawned as he headed to his locker.
Manager Joe Girardi called off on-field batting practice for his weary players. Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro got the day off after the long Sunday night game.
“You worry about them some in the next couple of days,” Girardi said. “I’m giving a couple of them days off today and maybe one or two of them through the next couple of days. Their legs are tired, beat up.”
Much like with the Cubs, the Yankees’ bullpen is worn thin. Girardi named four relievers who were likely unavailable because they’d thrown so many pitches the previous night, including closer Aroldis Chapman who blew a lead in the ninth. The Yankees called up pitcher Chad Green to give them a fresh reliever after the lengthy game sapped their bullpen.
Judge fell asleep around 6:30 a.m. and woke up a little after noon, feeling physically refreshed. He said that’s not the most challenging part of recovering from such a long game.
“I think it’s mental, to be honest,” Judge said. “You just played 18 innings of baseball — close game, every pitch matters. It’s a mental grind. Now we’re really going to see what kind of team we’ve got here.”
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was still feeling the effects of the night before. It had less to do with exhaustion and more to do with getting hit by Chapman in his left forearm. Rizzo got an X-ray on his arm and it came back negative.
“It’s sore,” Rizzo said. “Not anymore sore than any other pitch that I’ve been hit with. It will be fine.”
Rizzo’s not sure how to feel about playing 18 innings or how it can be altered. In the World Baseball Classic, for instance, runners are put on first and second to start the 11th.
“There are a lot of ideas floated out there,” Rizzo said. “Every overtime and extra time in sports is so exciting except baseball. It just drags and drags, where you have the NBA overtime, the NHL overtime, NFL, it’s so exciting. Baseball, it’s just a little (meh).”
Still, pretty cool to say he played in an 18-inning game, right?
“No,” Rizzo said. “It’s really not. You just want those games to end. … Maybe when I’m older I can say it, but right now, no.”