Now that we’ve had some time to digest the Mets’ 2-1 win over the Cardinals in 20 innings, not to mention sleep for a few hours, let’s take a look back at the events in reverse chronological order for a game that began at 4:15 p.m. EDT and ended with Ryan Ludwick’s groundout at 11:07 p.m.
POSTGAME: A weary Jerry Manuel steps in front of his TV backdrop in the hallway of the visitors clubhouse and is glad that he’s not Tony La Russa. The Cardinals manager double-switched Matt Holliday out of the game in the 11th inning, thus exposing Albert Pujols with a pitcher behind him the rest of the way. As it turned out, Holliday was sick, but Manuel was asked what the reaction would be in
“Me? You know what would have happened to me,” Manuel said, laughing. “But I haven’t won a World Series like he has. I don’t get into what everybody else does. It’s what we’re trying t o do. What we’re trying to accomplish. I can’t get into that.”
The day began with Manuel talking about – what else? – suggestions of a clubhouse rift against him. But winning an epic game tends to change the conversation.
“This is about they wildest one I’ve been involved in,” Manuel said. “The longest one I’ve been involved in. The most decisions I’ve had to make. Geez, it’s killing me.”
20TH INNING: With K-Rod spent, Mike Pelfrey puts down a bat, grabs a glove and tells pitching coach Dan Warthen that he’s ready for duty if needed for the late, late innings. Pelfrey had been holding out hope he would be used as a pinch hitter – Jon Niese and Raul Valdes each took turns at the plate – but he was called on for a more important role. Nailing down his first major-league save.
“I kept telling myself there was a reason I wasn’t hitting,” Pelfrey said. As for picking up for K-Rod’s blown save, Pelfrey added, “I didn’t even think about that. I just wanted to get this game over with.”
Pelfrey said he could have pitched much longer if needed, despite throwing 70 pitches in his between starts side session earlier in the day and also running “gassers’ or sprints around 2 p.m.
“I had a bat in my hand for 10 innings,” Pelfrey said. “I was thinking I was going to make an impact.”
He did – just not in the way he initially believed. “Pelfrey asked to pitch – he stepped up,” Manuel said. “He said ‘I can do this.’ You have to be very careful when you have a young guy that just come off throwing shutout innings. To come out there and perform like he did, you’ve got to applaud him for that effort.”
19TH INNING: Francisco Rodriguez, the only real pitcher actually pitching for either team, suffers the blown save when Yadier Molina – big surprise there – lines a run-scoring single over the head of Luis Castillo with two outs. It was a shocking development. Sure, Manuel had saved K-Rod for that exact situation, but it wasn’t revealed until later that K-Rod had been warmed up roughly 10 times and already thrown more than 100 pitches in the bullpen.
“I was really, really tired,” Rodriguez said. “I basically had a dead-arm out there. The bottom line is that we got the win.”
After that kind of rough treatment, Manuel said he was concerned how K-Rod would be feeling on Sunday, which suggests he probably will be unavailable for the series finale against the Cardinals.
MORE 19th INNING: Jeff Francoeur, sitting on an 0-for-7, drives in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly off Joe Mather – a Cardinals outfielder that was used to pitch for two innings.
“For us, I knew we had our pitchers going, and I knew they didn’t have nay pitchers warming up, so I thought it was just a matter of time,” Francoeur said. “But I’m not going to lie to you. When I had the bases loaded with one out, it was the most nervous I had been in a long time hitting. You’re sitting on an 0-for-7, and if I ground into a double play against the pitcher, you’re never going to hear the end of it.”
Francoeur called it the “happiest 0-for-7 of his life” as his 10-game hitting streak ended. He recalled being in the 18-inning playoff game against the Astros in ’05, with an important distinction. “But his was totally different because you felt like no one was ever going to get a hit.”
14th INNING: Probably the most unbelievable inning of all.
Hisanori Takahashi, who got a double-play, strikeout/throwout at second base to the 13th inning, had his hands full again in the 14th. This time, he had runners at second and third with none out. But Takahashi, who was passed over for Raul Valdes on Friday, whiffed both Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick before intentionally walking Pujols. With Matt Holliday double-switched out of the game in the 11th inning, that left Takahashi with reliever Blake Hawksworth, and he struck him out on five pitches.
10th INNING: The Mets’ pitching staff escaped three bases-loaded jams in the 10th, 12th and 14th innings, and one was saved by first baseman – yes, first baseman – Alex Cora. Manuel went to Cora for the bottom of the 1oth inning in a double-switch that brought Fernando Nieve into the game. And of course, the ball found Cora, or vice versa. He had never made a start at the position, and played one inning there for the Red Sox in ’07, but looked like a natural diving into the stands to grab Matt Holliday’s foul pop-up.
Cora disappeared from view into the sea of fans, leaping in backward while making the two-handed grab. When he jumped back up amid the red-clad Cardinals fans, he flipped the ball to one of them.
Later, Cora said Manuel had asked him to take grounder at first base over the past four days for occasions when Mike Jacobs had to be removed later in games.
ALMOST FORGOT – SANTANA PITCHED: Johan Santana, rebounding from a rough outing last Sunday, struck out nine and allowed four hits over seven scoreless innings. He gave up a leadoff double to Skip Schumaker to open the game, but still never let a Cardinals runner reach third base. He threw 113 pitches, and looked the sharpest he has in three starts. His velocity also was up to 92 mph.
“I think I pitched two games ago,” Santana joked afterward. “I’ve never seen that before. It’s good to see that we kept fighting until the end. Hopefully we’ll keep that momentum.”
THERE’S A REASON IT WENT THAT LONG: David Wright,
“That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Francoeur said. “How we won I have no clue. You take what you can get.”