ANAHEIM (AP) — Rookie right-hander Jaime Barria of the Los Angeles Angels kept throwing strikes and Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants kept fouling them off and fouling them off and fouling them off and fouling them off.
Neither Barria or Belt was about to give in. Mike Trout and the other Angels outfielders began looking at each other in amazement as the second at-bat of the game dragged on. The crowd buzzed as Belt peppered the second deck behind home plate and even the seats down the right-field line with souvenirs.
Belt hit eleven straight balls into the crowd on a full count, hanging in for an epic 21-pitch at-bat before lining out to right fielder Kole Calhoun.
Belt later homered to lead Johnny Cueto and the Giants over the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 on Sunday.
“I wasn’t going to give it up and the pitcher wasn’t either,” Belt said. “It made for a good battle. If it helped get me a little bit locked in for later in the game, it was worth it.”
It was the longest at-bat in the majors since records began in 1988. The previous high of 20 pitches in a plate appearance since 1988 was when Houston’s Ricky Gutierrez struck out against Cleveland’s Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, according to Retrosheet.
At one point, Belt chatted with catcher Martin Maldonado.
“He actually said that he hates when someone else does that. Belt said that,” Maldonado said.
“If I’m in the field and somebody does it, I can’t stand it, but I wasn’t going to give in,” Belt said. “I basically had to apologize to everybody after that.”
In all, the left-handed Belt fouled off 16 pitches, ending an at-bat the Giants said lasted 12 minutes, 45 seconds.
It took nine pitches for Belt to work the count full, as he fouled off five pitches in the process. He swung and missed just once and was greeted with high-fives when he returned to the dugout.
“I think after like the 16th pitch the crowd started getting into it,” said Trout, whose two-run homer in the eighth was his big league-leading ninth and his third in as many games. “I couldn’t imagine being up there for 21 pitches. It’s unbelievable.”
Said Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons: “That was impressive, huh? I was really tired after that. Regardless of the end result that was fun to watch. Don’t want to do it again.”
Belt saw 40 pitches in five at-bats.
“Even the second at-bat he did the same thing. Like, this can’t be happening,” Maldonado said.
“I tried some changeups and then finally the fastball in got him out,” Barria said through a translator. “I tried a curveball at one point and somehow he got contact and kept fouling it off. It was obviously tough.”
Said Belt: “You’ve got to give it to him. He kept on throwing strikes. He didn’t really hang anything except maybe a couple of pitches, but it was enough to throw me off and not get the barrel on the ball, so it was a tough at-bat.”
Angels pitching coach Charles Nagy checked on Barria (1-1) after the long at-bat. Barria had thrown nine pitches to Joe Panik, who hit a leadoff single, before throwing 21 to Belt.
Remarkably, Barria threw 49 pitches and loaded the bases in the first inning but didn’t allow a run.
Belt singled and scored in the third and launched a leadoff homer to right against Blake Parker in the fifth. Belt saw a total of 38 pitches in his first three at-bats, then hit the first pitch his last two times up.
Barria was chased after loading the bases with no outs in the third. He allowed two runs and six hits, struck out one and walked one. He got only six outs on 77 pitches.
Cueto (2-0) allowed only two hits in six shutout innings. He took a no-hitter into the sixth and struck out seven.
Cueto twice fanned Shohei Ohtani by getting the Japanese two-way sensation to flail at changeups. Cueto also struck out Trout twice.
The Giants right-hander walked two, hit two batters and lowered his ERA in four starts to 0.35.
After loading the bases with one out in the sixth, including allowing singles to Ian Kinsler and Ohtani, Cueto got Luis Valbuena to ground into a 3-6-1 double play. Cueto excitedly pumped his right fist after taking the throw from shortstop Brandon Crawford.
Los Angeles had runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth before Hunter Strickland got Kinsler to fly out for his third save in five chances.
The 23-year-old batted cleanup for the first time because Albert Pujols got his first day off this season. He finished 1 for 4. Ohtani threw a bullpen session some 90 minutes before first pitch and is scheduled to make his next start Tuesday at Houston. A blister on his right middle finger forced him out of his start after just two innings Tuesday night against Boston.
Giants: RHP Chris Stratton (1-1, 2.22) is scheduled to start Monday night in the opener of a home three-game series with Washington, which counters with LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49).
Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 3.98) looks to go 3-0 on the road this season when he opens series at Houston versus UCLA product Gerrit Cole (2-0, 0.96).
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