“It’s the mathematical potential for a single game to last forever, in a suspended world where no clock rules the day, that aligns baseball as much with the dead as the living.”
Bill Vaughn is right. Mathematically, it is possible for a single game to last forever. Some might argue that a few certainly feel like they have.
Baseball’s extra-innings rule in the regular season — which puts a so-called magic runner on second to start each inning after the ninth — helped reduce the length of games in 2021. Only 62 games reached the 11th inning during the season, a drastic measure down from the 234 games that reached the 11th in 2019 before the rule was implemented for the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.
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But that rule is out for the postseason, meaning when the teams reach extra innings, there will be no runner on second base. Teams are going to have to score the same way they would in any other inning, just as has always been the case.
This has led to some marathon extra-inning games in the playoffs before. Just what is the longest? Let’s take a look.
What are the longest MLB postseason games?
There are three games in MLB postseason history that have reached the 18th inning, and none has gone beyond that point.
All three of them have come relatively recently. The most recent came in the 2018 World Series when the Dodgers and Red Sox reached the 18th in Game 3. It ended with a walk-off home run in the bottom half of the inning by Max Muncy. This 3-2 Dodgers’ win was also the longest by time as it ran seven hours and 20 minutes.
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The 2014 NLDS Game 2 between the Giants and Nationals also reached the 18th inning, but unlike the World Series clash, saw both teams reach 18 innings pitched as Brandon Belt homered in the top of the frame to give San Francisco a 2-1 lead, and Hunter Strickland closed the door in the bottom half. That game checked in at six hours and 23 minutes, the second-longest time-wise in the playoffs.
Another NLDS in the 2000s reached the 18th inning when, in 2005, the Braves and Astros went late into the day. This one, too, ended on a home run when Chris Burke homered off Joey Devine to put the Astros up 7-6 to send Houston to the NLCS. That five hour and 50 minute clash was the third-longest by time.
Here’s a look at the longest postseason games, by innings, in MLB history.
|Red Sox vs. Dodgers||World Series||Oct. 26, 2018||18||7 hours, 20 minutes||Dodgers win 3-2|
|Giants vs. Nationals||NLDS||Oct. 4, 2014||18||6 hours, 23 minutes||Giants win 2-1|
|Braves vs. Astros||NLDS||Oct. 9, 2005||18||5 hours, 50 minutes||Astros win 7-6|
|Mets vs. Astros||NLCS||Oct. 15, 1986||16||4 hours, 42 minutes||Mets win 7-6|
|Braves vs. Mets||NLCS||Oct. 17, 1999||15||5 hours, 46 minutes||Mets win 4-3|
|Mariners vs. Yankees||ALDS||Oct. 4, 1995||15||5 hours, 12 minutes||Yankees win 7-5|
|Mets vs. Royals||World Series||Oct. 27, 2015||14||5 hours, 9 minutes||Royals win 5-4|
|Rangers vs. Blue Jays||ALDS||Oct. 9, 2015||14||4 hours, 57 minutes||Rangers win 6-4|
|White Sox vs. Astros||World Series||Oct. 25, 2005||14||5 hours, 41 minutes||White Sox win 7-5|
|Yankees vs. Red Sox||ALCS||Oct. 18, 2004||14||5 hours, 49 minutes||Red Sox win 5-4|
|Robins vs. Red Sox||World Series||Oct. 9, 1916||14||2 hours, 32 minutes||Red Sox win 2-1|
What is the longest MLB game ever?
Those postseason run-times might have finished at the length of two full MLB games, but they’re still far off from the longest games in regular-season MLB history.
Based on innings, two games have reached the 25th inning. On May 8, 1984, the Brewers and White Sox went 25. The Brewers actually scored three runs in the top of the 21st, but the White Sox responded with three of their own in the bottom half of the inning to keep the game going. Four pitchers in the game pitched at least six innings, and it wasn’t until Harold Baines homered off Chuck Porter in the bottom of the 25th that the White Sox were able to leave Comiskey Field with a 7-6 win. At eight hours and six minutes, it is the longest game played since 1901, according to Stathead.
The Cardinals and Mets in 1974 also hit 25 innings. On Sept. 11 that year, the Cardinals scored a run in the top of the ninth to tie the game at three. What followed was 15 scoreless innings until Mets pitcher Hank Webb attempted to pick off Bake McBride at first base. The throw was wild and McBride raced all the way around the bases, eventually scoring when catcher Ron Hodges dropped the throw. Sonny Siebert fired a scoreless bottom half of the inning to give St. Louis the 4-3 win. The game took seven hours and four minutes, and lasted until 3:15 a.m. after beginning at 8:08 p.m.
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Now if you think nearly eight hours at a ballpark is a long day, imagine how the Giants and Mets players felt on May 31, 1964.
The two teams started a double-header, with the first matchup going relatively quickly. Juan Marichal pitched a complete game against New York, allowing just three runs as San Francisco won 5-3 in a two hour and 29 minute matchup. Easy breezy.
The second game certainly didn’t seem like extra innings were in the cards. The Giants scored six runs in the first three innings to take a 6-1 lead over New York, but five runs combined in the sixth and seventh tied the game up for the Mets. From there, 15 scoreless innings followed until the Giants scored two in the top of the 23rd inning and ultimately prevailed in the 8-6 final score. That game lasted seven hours and 23 minutes, meaning those players spent nine hours and 52 minutes playing baseball.
To this day, it remains the longest doubleheader played in the sport.
Longest playoff games in North American sports
Taking a look at the NFL and NBA, by comparison, it is no surprise to see that the longest MLB postseason game still takes the cake for the longest playoff matchup.
The longest NBA playoff game is a tie between a 1953 matchup between the Syracuse Nationals and Boston Celtics, and the quadruple-overtime matchup between the Nuggets and Trail Blazers in 2019 that both ran five hours and 40 minutes.
According to Stathead, the longest game in NFL playoff history was Super Bowl XLVII between the Ravens and 49ers that ran four hours and 14 minutes.
In the NHL, a Stanley Cup semifinal game went to six overtimes for a total game time of 176 minutes and three seconds on the ice between the Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons, but it is unknown how much total time the game took to be completed.