Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay linked by walk-off

Today is a day to remember July 29, 2000.

It was on that day that the Blue Jays and Mariners played 13 innings in Seattle. The Mariners were a good team, one that would go on to lose to the Yankees in the ALCS. The Blue Jays were alright, finishing 83-79, which wasn’t enough to make the postseason.

The Mariners took a 3-0 lead in the third inning on a home run by Joe Oliver and a two-run double by John Olerud. The Blue Jays scored the next five, with the go-ahead hit coming from Craig Grebeck against Jamie Moyer in the fifth inning. The Mariners rallied to tie with two runs in the sixth inning. Oliver’s RBI double drove in one and Stan Javier’s single brought in the other.

This isn’t particularly notable yet, but the key to the story is coming soon enough. The two teams went scoreless in the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th. The Mariners loaded the bases in the 10th, but Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson struck out and future Reds manager David Bell flied out to keep the game going.

In the 13th inning, Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi handed the ball to a struggling pitcher whose ERA was over 10. This wasn’t one of those 10-something ERAs in five innings. This was a 10.48 ERA in 62 2/3 innings of work, with 92 hits and 40 walks allowed.

Henderson led off with a single. Bell tried to bunt and ended up safe at first with Henderson going to second when catcher Alberto Castillo’s throw was late. Alex Rodriguez had a chance to win the game, but settled for advancing the baserunners one stop with a line drive single to center.

This brought up the Mariners designated hitter, who entered the day batting .349. This wasn’t one of those .350 in 75 at-bats guys. This was .349 over 332 at-bats of excellence.

And that’s how Roy Halladay came to face Edgar Martinez with the game on the line.

Martinez worked the count to 2-1 and hit a line drive single to center to win the five-hour long game. It was all part of a great night and great season for Martinez, who after the game served as grand marshal of the Torchlight Parade in the city.

That had to be a tough walk off the mound for Halladay. There were no parades thrown for him. In fact, he was sent to the minors a few days after this game, didn’t pitch again in the major leagues again until September, and he got hit hard in two of his final three appearances to finish with a 10.64 ERA, the worst by any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched in a season.

Martinez played that season and then four more after that before retiring at age 41. He finished with a .312/.418/.515 slashline and is arguably the best designated hitter of all-time.

Halladay’s greatness had not yet fully surfaced. He returned to the majors in 2001 a different pitcher, thanks to both physical and mental coaching that got him right. By 2002 he was on a path that made him one of the game’s most dominant pitchers for the rest of the decade. Halladay became an eight-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner. Winner is a key phrase here, as even in an era in which we discount pitcher wins, we can still marvel at his 203-105 mark.

Today, they are united again, as Hall of Fame inductees. Martinez actually has a similar bond with Mariano Rivera — Martinez got the winning hit in Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS. Rivera got a key strikeout to keep the game tied a few innings prior.

It just goes to show you that you never know where a player’s path might someday lead.

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