An irresistible force met an immovable object Sunday in Angel Stadium, where Angels starter Jaime Barria refused to give in to Brandon Belt, and the San Francisco first baseman refused to yield to the 21-year-old right-hander.
The result was an epic 21-pitch at-bat in which Belt fouled off 15 two-strike pitches before flying out to right field, a 12-minute battle that set a major league record for most pitches in an at-bat since such statistics were first tracked in 1988.
The previous mark of 20 was set by Houston’s Ricky Gutierrez against Cleveland’s Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998.
“It’s probably not the record I’d choose to break, but I didn’t give the at-bat away,” Belt said. “When I’m in the field, I hate it when a guy keeps fouling pitches off. ‘Dude, just hit the ball.’ I basically had to apologize to everybody about that.”
Barria got ahead of Belt with a 1-and-2 count. Belt fouled off two pitches, took ball two, fouled off two pitches and took ball three. With the count full, Belt fouled off 11 consecutive pitches, with Barria also making four pickoff throws to first. Belt finally flied out on a fastball.
“Wow, that was impressive from both sides,” Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “One guy kept throwing strikes, the other kept fouling them off. I don’t want to do it again, but regardless of the result, it was fun to watch.”
Barria threw 11 fastballs, six sliders and four changeups in the at-bat.
“He kept throwing strikes,” Belt said. “He didn’t really hang anything, maybe a couple. He did enough to throw me off, so I wasn’t hitting it on the barrel. I was getting tired, but I didn’t want to give in. I put too much effort into it.”
The Giants went on to load the bases with one out, but Barria got Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval to pop out to end a 49-pitch scoreless inning. Barria departed in the third, his pitch count at 77.
“That first inning took a toll,” manager Mike Scioscia said.
Asked whether he had worked harder to put up one zero, Barria, speaking through an interpreter, said, “No, not really.”
Belt capped an eight-pitch at-bat against Barria in the third inning with a single.
“I thought, ‘No, this can’t be happening,’ ” Angels catcher Martin Maldonado said.
Belt capped a nine-pitch at-bat against Blake Parker in the fifth with a home run, giving him 38 pitches seen in three at-bats.
Belt’s arms must have been tired. He hit a first-pitch single in the seventh and a first-pitch fly out in the eighth.