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David Brown

Survivor Busch Stadium: Mets outwit, outplay, outlast Cards in 20

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Twenty innings, 19 pitchers and nearly seven hours elapsed before the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals could exhale.

The Mets claimed a 2-1 victory of attrition in the major leagues' longest game in two years. It was one in which the respective managers, New York's Jerry Manuel and St. Louis' Tony La Russa, made several moves you don't normally see.

But little was normal about this game, which began with 18 scoreless innings — the longest such streak in 21 seasons — and ended after 652 pitches. Hindsight is 20/20 — or, in this case, 20 innings — but the game might have been less of a marathon if La Russa made different choices.

• He removed Matt Holliday(notes) — admittedly mired in a slump and sick — in an 11th-inning double switch that not only failed but also caused problems later on. By moving the pitcher's spot in the order to cleanup, after Albert Pujols(notes), La Russa allowed Manuel to avoid the league's top slugger during Cardinals rallies in the 12th and 14th. Further, because he feared running out of pitchers if his pinch hitters had failed, La Russa twice decided not to use better options than Jason Motte(notes) and Blake Hawksworth(notes) with the bases loaded.

From Derrick Goold's story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"We would have been pitching with position players long before the 17th if we had gone that way," La Russa said.

• In the bottom of the 19th, down 1-0 and with Pujols at bat, Ryan Ludwick(notes) was caught stealing second on an unsuccessful hit-and-run attempt. Pujols followed with a double.

That was only the tip of the strange iceberg.

• The Cards called on two position players — Felipe Lopez(notes) and Joe Mather(notes) — to pitch the final three innings. Lopez went a scoreless 18th, throwing 12 of 21 pitches for strikes in his first career mound appearance. He switched positions three times (also playing third and shortstop)

Mather took the loss, becoming the first Cardinals position player since Jose Oquendo (who's now a Cards coach) in 1988 to render a decision. Mather also played third and center field.

• Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse(notes) played the final three innings in left field after making 276 appearances as a pitcher. He made two putouts.

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• Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez estimates he warmed up about 10 times and threw 100 pitches in the bullpen before he came into the game in the 19th.

• Jose Reyes went 0-for-7 but had the go-ahead RBI on a sacrifice fly in the 20th.

• Jonathan Niese struck out as a pinch hitter and right-hander John Maine(notes) pinch ran. Mike Pelfrey(notes), usually a starter, got the save.

• New York used 24 of the 25 players on its roster — only Oliver Perez(notes) was left out.

• The Cardinals loaded the bases in the 10th, 12th and 14th and stranded 22 runners — including 14 in extras.

• Yadier Molina went 3-for-9 and caught every inning for the Cards.

• Cards' left-hander Jaime Garcia(notes) started with five no-hit innings.

• Both teams combined for 19 walks, 35 strikeouts and 35 runners left on base.

• MLB.com's Anthony DiComo has more.

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