Vina—0-for-9 when he stepped to the plate—hit an RBI single in the 20th inning, lifting the Cardinals over the Marlins 7-6 Sunday in the longest game in the major leagues in 10 years.
“I was battling as much as I could, still trying to get my rhythm,” Vina said. “Who would have thought I would win the game? You pull off something like this and it’s a good feeling.”
Vina’s two-out single to right knocked in Edgar Renteria with the go-ahead run and the Marlins went down in order in the bottom of the 20th, ending the longest game since Aug. 31, 1993, when Minnesota beat Cleveland 5-4 in 22 innings.
It was the longest game in Marlins history, surpassing the 17 innings they played against Toronto on June 8, 1998. It was the second-longest game for the Cardinals—they played 25 innings against the New York Mets in 1974.
By the time it ended after 6 hours, 7 minutes, many of the announced crowd of 10,075 had left. A steady drizzle that started in the 18th helped chase some fans away.
“We were so excited in the ninth,” Lowell said. “I would never have thought then that we’d be playing for as long as we did. Right now, I’m tired. I feel dead.”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was back in the dugout after serving his one-game suspension Saturday for his part in a brawl last week against Arizona.
He had to wait a long time for this win. It was well worth it, though.
“What would have been one of the most painful losses a team can stand becomes just an incredible win,” La Russa said.
There were a total of 622 pitches, including 337 by seven St. Louis pitchers. The Marlins used eight pitchers, including Carl Pavano, who was scheduled to start Monday night at Arizona.
It was the longest game in terms of time since Texas and Boston played 6 hours, 35 minutes on Aug. 25, 2001.
Among the final quirky numbers: The Cardinals’ bullpen gave up five runs in the ninth, then pitched 11 shutout innings.
Steve Kline (1-3) worked three innings for the win, one day after getting tagged for his second loss of the week in relief.
“It was one of those games when you have so many ups and downs,” Kline said. “We still need, as a bullpen, to knuckle down and bear down some more. At times, we’re trying too hard instead of just going out and pitching and doing the things needed to get the team a victory.”
The Cardinals, after getting swept in Atlanta, took two of three against the Marlins, who were fresh off a three-game sweep against the Brewers.
After 10 scoreless extra innings, the Cardinals broke through against Pavano (2-3) in the 20th.
Renteria reached on a one-out single, went to third on Mike Matheny’s single and trotted home on Vina’s single.
The Marlins were well aware of Vina’s slump. Because of that, in a game like this, he was the last player they wanted to see strolling to the plate with the game on the line.
“We didn’t want to see him then,” Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre said. “This is a game of percentages. Sooner or later, a guy like that is going to get a hit.”
Cardinals starter Garrett Stephenson pitched eight strong innings and was on the verge of his first win in nearly a month before the bullpen fell apart.
Jeff Fassero started the ninth for the Cardinals and allowed solo home runs to Castro and Castillo, the first of the year for both.
After Juan Encarnacion had an RBI forceout that made it 6-4, Lowell followed with his tying home run, his sixth of the season.
The Cardinals appeared on their way to an easy win after tacking on three runs in the ninth for a 6-1 lead. Eli Marrero delivered a two-run triple and scored on pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro’s squeeze bunt.
The Marlins threatened in the 14th, with runners on first and third with one out. Pinch-hitter Brian Banks struck out and Castillo grounded out.
Martinez made it to third with one out in the 16th, but Matheny popped out and Vina grounded out. Miguel Cairo opened the St. Louis 17th with a triple,but Jim Edmonds struck out, Scott Rolen popped out and Martinez grounded out.
The teams combined to leave 37 runners on base. … Encarnacion flashed his arm strength in right field in the fourth inning when he threw out Martinez, who tried to score from third on a fly ball by Renteria. … Edmonds leads the NL in hitting, but after going 1-for-8 his average dipped to .379…. Gonzalez has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games for Florida.
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