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Protracted game business as usual

Julian Tavarez's woes helped prolong Wednesday's game. Julian Tavarez's woes helped prolong Wednesday's game. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 18, 2008

NEW YORK - Knowing it might be a lengthy game, given that the Red Sox and Yankees were squaring off in Yankee Stadium Wednesday night, Coco Crisp decided to find other ways to use his time. After all, he didn't want to get bored.

"I bought a house," Crisp said. "I was in [the clubhouse] and I bought a house. They were faxing me some papers because it's a three-hour time difference [to California]. When the game started, I missed the first because 5 o'clock was deadline."

OK, so Crisp was joking. But it was almost as if he could have made such a purchase.

In a game that stretched to 4 hours 8 minutes, Crisp and his fellow players were subjected to pangs of hunger, bouts of exhaustion, and lots and lots of pitches - 341, to be exact. Also, 24 runs and 30 hits.

But these games don't require all that offense to last long. Last Friday, when Clay Buchholz and Chien-Ming Wang dueled for the first time, the game came in at 2:59. That's lightning speed for one of these matchups.

"Six hits?" Sean Casey said of the total allowed by the starters, highlighted by Wang's complete-game two-hitter in a 4-1 Yankees win. "That should be 2:15, 2:10. [Greg] Maddux throws a two-hitter, you're out of there. You're at home."

Not so Wednesday when Wang and Buchholz met again. There was simply no chance for a hasty retreat, not once Buchholz gave up three first-inning runs. And by the fifth inning of the 15-9 New York win, it seemed the players might not head back to their hotel before the witching hour.

"You've got to keep focusing," Casey said. "Don't look at the clock. Sometimes I was like, 'Don't look at the clock. Finish the game, then look at the clock.' "

Casey, who played most of his career in the National League with the Reds, got fair warning.

"I heard that, like, 'Hey, man. When we play the Yankees, they're like four-hour games,' " Casey said. "I'm like, 'Really?' Maybe somebody's exaggerating. It's unbelievable. They really are legit four-hour games. I mean, we were in the sixth inning [Wednesday], it's 10:15, it's the top of the sixth."

In 2006 and 2007, just three Yankees-Red Sox games lasted less than three hours - and one was 2:59. There have already been two such games this season, except one doesn't really count. Saturday's 2:49 game was interrupted by a 2:11 rain delay, the third time in the last three seasons a delay has prolonged a Sox-Yankees game.

While Wednesday night's game was the longest this season, it's certainly not the longest in recent memory. Recall, for instance, that Boston Massacre five-game series in 2006, which featured games of 3:55 and 4:45 (in a doubleheader), 3:41, 4:17 (with a 57-minute delay), and 3:03. David Wells can be thanked for that nice, crisp final game.

"Part of it is we play nationally televised games," manager Terry Francona said. "I don't want to exaggerate, but I know that you've got to add on maybe sometimes 45 seconds to a minute in between half-innings. That's a lot. You're looking at 20 minutes. So that's significant.

"We beat the heck out of each other. Both teams work the count, grind out at-bats. There's numerous pitching changes. They run enough where we're throwing over all game. I don't know that anybody is complaining about the quality of baseball. They're just long games. We've had some long ones. But it's not like everybody is playing in slow motion. It just takes forever."

That might be an understatement. Especially with games that averaged 3:31 in 2007, and look to be headed that way in 2008.

"Looked up last night in the fourth inning and it was 10 [minutes] to 10," Francona said. "I was hungry and I was tired."

He couldn't leave the bench, though. Crisp could, not being in the lineup. His solution to the protracted game? A protein bar and a bowl of cereal in the clubhouse. And, really, what more could you need?

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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