MOOSIC — Tyler Wade hit it right on the nose when he provided his opinion about the new structure of extra innings in Minor League Baseball this season.
With a runner starting at second base at the beginning of every extra frame, the dynamic of extra innings has changed drastically.
“They’re quicker,” said the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders shortstop. “It makes things a little bit more interesting, for sure.”
Wade is right.
The RailRiders have played three extra-inning games this season, and the longest one has gone 3 hours, 20 minutes. It was a 10-inning affair on April 13 in Charlotte. But Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 11-game on May 17 against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs went just 3 hours, 16 minutes.
Comparatively, when the New York Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics in 11 innings on May 12, they played in 4 hours, 15 minutes. How about the Yankees’ 12-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles on April 8? That game took 4 hours, 48 minutes.
With a base runner starting on second, it changes the strategy for managers. They have to consider whether or not they want to walk the first batter of the frame to put on the force on second and third base.
“They’re usually going to do that — walk the first hitter, try to get a double play and keep us from scoring if they haven’t scored, especially,” Mitchell said.
While extra innings have made Mitchell and his coaching staff put in some extra thought this season, it has forced players like Brady Lail to be uber-focused when they enter the game.
Lail picked up the win on May 17 against Lehigh Valley. With a runner on second in both the 10th and 11th inning, he did his best to not forget about the initial base runner.
“I was just telling (Cale) Coshow — it’s a weird thing they added in, but it makes you really lock it in and execute,” Lail said. “It’s just weird to see a guy out there. There were a couple pitches I totally forgot to look at him and calmed down. It’s just a different feel, but it made me lock it in and execute some pitches that I’ve been struggling with, and it turned out to be a game-changer for me.
“It was a good experience. It’s cool.”
While a strikeout is the best outcome for a pitcher in these situations, Lail just wanted to get ahead of the batter and execute his pitches “down and away.”
Even though he wasn’t thinking “strikeout” when he took the mound in the 10th and 11th inning, it’s what happened. Four of the six outs Lail recorded in the win were strikeouts.
“Hopefully they weren’t elevating them to move (runners) over a little if they were going to put them in play,” Lail said. “I wanted to keep it on the ground and keep it simple for my infield. So I approached it that way. I had to keep the ball in the zone and I had to work my four pitches right away.”
While starter Josh Rogers will likely never pitch in extra innings this season, he understands the reasoning behind the change after Minor League Baseball made a few different rule changes this offseason to speed up the pace of play.
But he would tweak the rule a little if he could.
“It’s kind of weird, but it obviously moves the game along a little bit faster,” Rogers said. “I think that they should do the — maybe if you could do the 10th and 11th straight up and if you get to the 12, or something like that, maybe you put the guy on second. I’m OK with it.
“As a starting pitcher it doesn’t really affect me, but I now for the bullpen guys, you can look at it two ways, it’s an easy win to pick up or it’s an easy loss. It’s tough for those guys.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle