I saw something Friday evening at an Oklahoma City Dodgers game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark that I’ve never witnessed before: A 9-inning professional baseball game played in 2 hours and 14 minutes.
And it was a fun, action-filled game between the Dodgers and the Sugar Land Space Cowboys that was won by OKC 3-2.
Thanks to new rules that mandate no more than 14 seconds between pitches — 18 if runners are on base — the game moved incredibly fast.
There seemed to be no complaints by players or managers over the mandated fast pace. However, there appeared to be a Sugar Land player called out at one point because he wasn’t ready for the pitch in time.
I was able to witness the Dodgers game thanks for my friend Steve Buck and two of his children. Steve had an extra ticket and invited me at the last minute.
We had a blast and got to see the most exciting play in baseball — a triple — hit by Dodgers outfielder Drew Avans. The next time up Avans surprised the Space Cowboys by laying down a bunt and getting an easy single out of it.
We saw OKC’s Jake Lamb hit a 2-run home run in the third inning. We saw future baseball hall of famer José Altuve bat for Sugar Land on a rehab assignment. Altuve got a couple of singles, but also was called out on strikes.
Steve and I began to notice the incredible pace of the game after about three innings, which had taken maybe 40 minutes of playing time. We were headed into the fifth when the game reached an hour of playing time.
We saw three OKC pitchers hold Sugar Land to only single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and nothing more. Then we watched Sugar Land’s Zac Rosscup shut down the Dodgers over the last 1.2 inning and noted that Rosscup has not given up a single run this season over 9 innings. Nothing but zeros.
We celebrated the seventh inning stretch by singing badly, then Googling the history of the seventh inning stretch because we wanted to know how it started. If you must know, it was started by President William Howard Taft at a game in Pittsburgh in 1910.
You can look it up yourself.
Even though we were tracking the swift pace of the game, the final three outs came so quickly in the 9th it caught us by surprise. We headed to our cars at 9:19 pm on a game that started at 7:05.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through games that started at 7:05 and by 10 pm were only in the 7th or 8th innings.
It was a refreshing change, and appears to be more than a short-term trend.
For reference, here’s an article I found that shows just how much the pitch clock has impacted the length of games throughout the minor leagues.
Dodgers radio announcer and communications director Alex Freedman later tweeted that the Dodgers and Sugar Land games averaged — AVERAGED — 3 hours and 34 minutes last year. So far this year, the first five games have gone 2:51, 2:23, 2:58, 2:14 and 2:32.
I’m hoping that Major League Baseball will embrace the pitch clock ASAP.
Average time of MLB games this year so far: 3:07.