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What a difference a year makes.
Last season, catchers Matt Pagnozzi and Brian Esposito played together on the Memphis Redbirds. But as Monday night gave way to Tuesday morning, the one-time teammates found themselves pitching against each other in Tulsa.
What's more, both moonlighting backstops factored in the decision as the Springfield Cardinals outlasted the Drillers, 7-3, in 13 innings.
While it's difficult to say for sure, given the often spotty nature of record-keeping in the Minor Leagues, this may have been the first time in the history of professional baseball that such an event occurred. On the Major League level, only three catchers have earned a decision since the advent of the 20th Century: Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan took a loss for the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, Brent Mayne earned a win for the Colorado Rockies in 2000 and, earlier this month, Jamie Burke of the Seattle Mariners suffered a loss against the Detroit Tigers.
Needless to say, the odds of two catchers factoring in the decision in the same game are astronomical. Yet it happened two days ago, with Pagnozzi notching a victory and Esposito absorbing the defeat. This did not happen due to some bizarre supernatural occurrence or a rip in the space-time continuum. Instead, both teams simply ran out of pitchers.
The historic contest was the second game of a doubleheader, meaning the clubs played 20 innings on Monday. Esposito took the mound in the top of the 10th after flying out as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth.
"I had been hanging out in the bullpen, warming up guys, until I was the only one left out there," said Esposito, who was briefly converted to a pitcher while playing in the Red Sox organization in 2003. "So when it came time for me to warm up, I had to throw with our right fielder."
Despite an extremely limited arsenal of pitches in his self-described "bag of tricks," Esposito had no reservations whatsoever when Drillers manager Stu Cole summoned him to the mound.
"I have a real sandlot mentality when it comes to playing this game," he said. "If you want me to play shortstop, outfield, pitch or whatever, it's like 'All right, fine, that's cool with me.' I like to have a good time out there, but I like to compete and I like to win, no matter what I'm doing. And this was a game we needed to win."
Esposito allowed runners to get into scoring position in both the 10th and 11th but emerged unscathed. Then, with two outs and no one on in the bottom of the 11th, Pagnozzi took the mound for the Cardinals. Like Esposito, Pagnozzi had some experience on the mound.
"A couple of years ago [with Peoria], I pitched in the last game of the season and I ended up getting a save in a one-run ballgame," said Pagnozzi, the nephew of former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi. "But that situation was different. We had just clinched a playoff spot, so our manager wanted to save the bullpen for the postseason. I also pitched back in high school, so I was just trying to remember what I used to do back then."
Esposito and Pagnozzi both pitched a scoreless 12th. For Esposito, fatigue was beginning to creep in.
"I was throwing pretty much all fastballs and I was definitely losing some steam," he said. "A reliever usually doesn't last for more than two or three innings, and here I was in my fourth. They finally got me pretty good."
Cody Haerther doubled to start the inning and Andrew Brown followed with a tiebreaking double to left field. After a single and a sacrifice fly, Esposito intentionally walked Brandon Yarbrough to load the bases and face -- who else? -- Pagnozzi. The move backfired when Pagnozzi ripped a three-run double.
"[Esposito] had really been doing something special out there, making our hitters look a lot worse than they should," said Pagnozzi. "So I was real happy to come through in that situation, because with me pitching I thought we might need that extra cushion."
As it turned out, Pagnozzi set the Drillers down in order in the 13th to end the 4-hour, 24-minute marathon.
"Pags went out there and did a great job," said Esposito. "Our guys kept coming back to the bench, saying that he had good stuff. He threw a few sliders and he definitely has a better changeup, so he won when it came to the scouting report. But then again, he only had to throw 2 1/3 innings."
Now that all is said and done, both "pitchers" are honored to have played a role in baseball history.
"That was definitely a memorable game, especially since it didn't end until 1 in the morning," said Esposito. "I just hope fans don't go digging up baseball cards from when I was a pitcher, thinking I made that transition again."
"I was talking to my grandfather, who has four sons and has seen a great number of baseball games, and he was telling me that he's never heard of two catchers getting a decision in the same game," said Pagnozzi. "To think that this might have been the first time this ever happened is amazing."
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.