Every so often one of those games that seem as if it will last forever breaks out. Sunday’s St. Louis Cardinals-Pittsburgh Pirates affair was one of those, lasting 19 innings and more than six hours before Pittsburgh won, 6-3, with a three-run rally in the top of the 19th.
I love looking over the box scores from those kind of games. While attendance at the start was listed as 43,412 at Busch Stadium once Cards officialdom stopped counting tickets sold, you’ve got to wonder how many had the patience, the fortitude, and the butt stamina to last through six hours and seven minutes of baseball. There’s never an official count for that. Three times I have witnessed games that lasted 21 innings, two in the majors and one in the Alaska Baseball League. The one in the Alaska Baseball League, played in Anchorage, ended at 1:30 a.m. and I ran down the stairs from the press box and tried count departing fans. It was an unofficial tally, but I topped out at 50.
No doubt there were more on hand in St. Louis when the day ended. Those who stayed saw a smorgasbord of baseball. Each team used eight pitchers. Cards leadoff hitter Jon Jay had nine at-bats and lucky for him he was pretty hot, collecting three hits. Imagine the embarrassment of going 0-for-9 in a single game. Pirates star Andrew McCutchen had eight official at-bats and stroked two hits. Usually a two-hit game represents a pretty decent day at the plate, but McCutchen’s average dropped and he is now hitting .354.
Cardinals batters had 68 official at-bats and Pirates hitters had 66 official at-bats. Seven Pirates had two hits apiece out of 16 total. One of Pittsburgh’s pinch-hitters was pitcher James McDonald, who is usually a starter on the mound. He went one-for-one. The losing Cardinals had 11 hits and Jay was the only player in the game to accumulate three. Fifteen players came to the plate for the Pirates. Sixteen players came to the plate for the Cardinals.
The starters, who had time to shower, dress, and move on to another city before the game ended, actually did pretty well for both sides. Pittsburgh righty Jeff Karstens threw seven innings and gave up just two hits and two runs, both earned. St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia pitched eight innings and surrendered five hits and two runs, though both were unearned. This was not a day for complete games, but neither starter even went nine, although their efforts easily could have warranted that.
After the starters departed, the game devolved managerial hell for Pirate chief Clint Hurdle and Cards boss Mike Matheny. They began changing pitchers about every inning, trying to figure out if they would have any pinch-hitters available in the clutch, if the clutch ever came, and swapping guys in and out and all about for the rest of the night.
The funny thing is that the Pirates probably believed they had this baby wrapped up in the top of the 17th when they went ahead 3-2. Then the Cardinals returned fire in the bottom of the 17th.
Pedro Alvarez gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead in the top of the 19th and McCutcheon drove in two runs after that. At last a lead was safe. Everyone was probably really, really glad to go home after six hours of play.