Here’s a question to ponder as we head into this week’s throwback whilst warming up the ACS Wayback.
How much money would you be willing to sacrifice in order to watch a routine Cardinals’ baseball game held on an April afternoon?
That’s a pretty vague query from the onset, so let’s filter it down to the day of the week and where the seat is located. In this scenario, it’s Saturday and the chair is in Section 339, where it is valued at $45.90 today.
Now let’s adjust the price since our time machine is being “dialed in” to the year 2010. We’ll be kind and drop $15.90 off face value, because we like round numbers, and make it worth a flat 30 bucks. Seems reasonable, right?
If you sat in this Busch Stadium seat six years ago this week, the Washingtons you parted with were well spent because of a Cards vs. Mets stem winder that went seven minutes shy of seven hours and contained enough drama that made the ducat justified.
You’re familiar with the seventh inning stretch. On April 17, 2010, Redbird fans endured the twentieth inning stretch.
The mid-afternoon affair began with Redbird lefty Jaime Garcia matched-up against New York southpaw Johan Santana and both pitchers were on target. After seven innings, the game was scoreless as Garcia only surrendered one hit while Santana gave up four.
Both teams’ respective skippers, Tony LaRussa and Jerry Manuel, elected to go with relievers in the eighth. Kyle McClellan took over for the Cardinals and retired the Mets, one-two-three. Despite surrendering a pair of walks, Ryota Igarshi kept the locals collared with a goose egg in the run column.
In the ninth, McClellan produced the same result as the previous inning. Although the Cardinals had a runner on first with one out, a double play sent the 0-0 game to an extra frame.
After Cards’ reliever Mitchell Boggs shut down the Mets thanks to a pair of strikeouts, in the top of the tenth, the Redbirds had a shot of winning in the bottom of the inning. Following a pair of ground outs, St. Louis loaded the bases beginning with a walk, followed Brendan Ryan’s single and concluded by a another walk.
In front of 43,709 rowdy fans at Busch Stadium, Matt Holliday popped up a foul out on the first base side and the scoreless game advanced to the eleventh.
The game proceeded to go on…and on…and on. After 17 hand-wringing innings, the 0-0 stalemate lingered into another shift.
What became intriguing as the preceding double-digit rotations continued was the locals’ complexion of pitching and fielding. After Boggs’ two scoreless innings on the mound, the Redbirds subsequently relied on hurlers Trever Miller, Jason Motte, Dennys Reyes, Blake Hawksworth and Ryan Franklin to keep the Mets at bay.
Entering the eighteenth, LaRussa inserted third baseman Felipe Lopez to the mound, even though he had never thrown in the majors before. The manager also moved center fielder Joe Mather to third and completely shuffled the outfield, which included Cards’ pitcher Kyle Lohse occupying left.
Even with all the wacky pencil-markings, the Cardinals kept the Mets scoreless in the top-half of the inning. Unfortunately, the host squandered opportunity and a double-play dashed a potential game-winner and the contest remained scoreless heading into the nineteenth.
As strange as it was to see Lopez pitch for the Redbirds in the previous inning, what ensued in the upcoming top-half was even more head-scratching. Mather, who had been playing since the tenth and was also not a hurler by-trade, replaced Lopez at pitcher.
The results were not as smooth as the prior inning’s shut out. Following a lead off walk by the Mets’ Jose Reyes, a sacrifice bunt pushed him to second. Mather intentionally walked David Wright to put New York runners at first and second with one out and then proceeded hit Jason Bey on the next rotation to load the bases.
With Jeff Francoeur’s sacrifice fly to left field, Reyes scored the go-ahead run that gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. Luckily for Mather and the Cards, the differential was maintained heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Ryan Ludwick began the Cards’ portion of the ledger with a lead-off walk, but was caught stealing in a hit-and-run attempt with Albert Pujols at the plate. With bases now empty, Pujols doubled to left to put the tying run in scoring position. After advancing to third base on Kyle Lohse’s ground out, Pujols scored on Yadier Molina’s single that tied the game 1-1. Molina was left on base to conclude the inning and the deadlock was sent to the twentieth frame.
With no other pitching options feasible to LaRussa, Mather remained on the mound for the Cardinals and instantly surrendered back-to-back singles to put Met runners on first and third with nobody out. Reyes’ sacrifice fly to center brought the oxymoronically-named Angel Pagan across home plate to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Redbirds had an opportunity for late heroics with two outs as Brendan Ryan’s single and Skip Schumaker’s walk put the tying run at second. Mets’ starter Mike Pelfrey proceeded to notch his first, and only, career save with Ryan Ludwick’s ground out that netted New York’s 2-1 victory.
First pitch that afternoon was 3:15 p.m. When the last out was recorded, the clock read 10:08 p.m. Six hours and 53 minutes of baseball had been played.
“The outcome was disappointing, but the heart that the club showed was amazing,” said LaRussa after the tussle. “I give them a standing ovation.”
In the scrap, five Cardinal starters played all twenty innings: Pujols, Molina, Ludwick, Schumaker and Lopez. Molina batted 3-for-9 in the game while Schumaker went 2-8.
Even with this 2010 marathon, it did not eclipse a prior historical benchmark between the pair. On September 11, 1974, St. Louis topped the Mets in a 4-3 result that went 25 innings deep and lasted seven hours and four minutes.
Six years ago this week, both teams and their respective fans sported resiliency. If you were in attendance or watched the game, we’d love to hear your reflections. Please feel free to comment down below.