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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

The suspense of suspended games

May stats for Yankees-Nationals won’t be official until their suspended game is completed on June 18.

The tarp covers the field at Nationals Park

The tarp covers the field at Nationals Park on Wednesday in Washington. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mitchell Layton

Suspended games in baseball are a pain in the neck for teams and managers, but they are a gold mine for those of us who love statistical oddities.

The Yankees-Nationals Tuesday game in D.C. was suspended after 5 1⁄2 innings because of rain with the score 3-3. The teams tried to finish the game Wednesday, but rain wiped out that plan (and the regularly scheduled game, too).

So the Yankees will return to Washington on June 18 to finish the first game and play the second (weather permitting — ha ha).

But it is only the first game we care about here.

When that contest resumes at 5:05 p.m., it will not be June 18 at Nationals Park. It will be May 15 all over again. That’s because anything that happens once a to-be-determined Yankees pitcher throws the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth will count on the official stats as having happened May 15.

So, for example, if Tyler Austin (or Washington’s Anthony Rendon) homers, it will be his second home run on May 15. Both homered in the original game.

Everything that happens will be part of the teams’ and players’ May statistics. So the teams’ May won-loss records will not be final until June 18. Didi Gregorius’ horrid May — he was batting .109 in the month going into Saturday — will not be final until June 18. The eventual winning and losing pitchers will be credited with a decision May 15.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone will have to choose a pitcher to throw that first pitch of the bottom of the sixth because the current player occupying the pitcher’s spot in the batting order is Brett Gardner, who pinch hit for Masahiro Tanaka in the top of the sixth. Boone can use anyone on his roster other than Tanaka, who is the only Yankee who was taken out of the game. Or he could just leave Gardner in to pitch (ha ha).

Two Nationals players — starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Moises Sierra, who pinch hit for Gonzalez — are out of the game and cannot appear in the continuation. That’s if they are even on the rosters on June 18.

Because the 25-man rosters likely will be different June 18, Boone and Nationals manager Davey Martinez may have to replace someone in the batting order if he no longer is on the team (traded, released, on the disabled list, etc.). While the batting orders are frozen, the rosters for the continuation will be those as of June 18 and substitutions will be permitted.

What happens if a player is called up from the minors and makes his major-league debut in the continuation? His debut date in the official statistics would be May 15, not June 18. This has happened before, and with a pretty important player in baseball history.

All-time home run king Barry Bonds made his big-league debut for the Pirates on May 30, 1986. However, his “official” first game came more than a month earlier on April 20.

Bonds was not on the Pirates when they had a game with the Cubs on April 20 suspended after 13 innings because of darkness (Wrigley Field did not get lights until 1988). The game resumed Aug. 11 and Bonds came in as a pinch hitter in the 17th inning and delivered an RBI single.

In his real debut May 30, Bonds went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He didn’t get his first big-league hit until May 31. But history now records the Aug. 11 hit as an April 20 hit — the first of the 2,935 Bonds had in his 22-year career.

Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. had a plate appearance for two teams credited to his ledger for the same date (April 28, 2008), because that day’s Orioles-White Sox game was suspended and finished Aug. 26.

Griffey was traded from the Reds to the White Sox on July 31, 2008, and was on Chicago’s roster when the White Sox resumed their game against the Orioles on Aug. 26. He went 2-for-4 with a walk for the Reds on the real April 28 and 0-for-1 with a walk for the White Sox on Aug. 26 (aka the fake April 28). History records Griffey as playing in two games on April 28, one in Chicago and the other in St. Louis.

There are many other examples of suspended-game oddities that can be found on the website SABR.org. Look for a 2012 article written by Stephen D. Boren that begins with the Yankees’ famous “Pine Tar Game” from 1983 and includes an anecdote about Hall of Famer Stan Musial.

In 1957, Musial was able to extend his then-National League record for consecutive games played by appearing as a pinch runner in the ninth inning of the completion of a suspended game from earlier in the season. Entering the July 21 game on Aug. 27 allowed Musial to backdate his appearance by five weeks, and because the score was 11-2 at the time, it clearly was done with the streak in mind. It was the only time in Musial’s 3,026-game career that he appeared as a pinch runner.

As far as the continuation of the Yankees-Nationals game goes, it won’t be May 15 in only one respect: Tickets from the May 15 game will not be honored at Nationals Park on June 18.

We can only hope the Nationals and Yankees pull off a trade before June 18 so some player can appear in the game for both teams. That’s never happened. How about Bryce Harper for Aaron Judge (ha ha)?

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