Last night’s epic 20 inning marathon between the Cardinals and the Mets had more ups and downs than a ride on the Cyclone in Coney Island. When the game finally came to an end and I saw Luis Castillo field the grounder off the bat of Ryan Ludwick and fire it to Mike Jacobs at first base for the final out. it took a couple of minutes for me to finally rise up and cheer like I usually do after a Mets win. The realization that the game had really come to an end took a while for my brain to process. It was all so surreal to me, and after taking in the entire 6 hour and 53 minute affair, all I knew was that I just witnessed one of the most thrilling, exciting and gut-wrenching regular season Met games ever. I’ll even go one further than that. There’s no way of really knowing for sure, but even if the Mets had lost the game, I don’t know if it would have made any difference in the way I felt afterward because the game itself had become more important in the grand scheme of things than the end result. The final score seemed like just a footnote on this historic evening for the Mets.
When you are fortunate enough to witness such a classic game as this one, you come away with a wonderful collection of thoughts that won’t soon perish. To watch two teams go toe-to-toe with both sides so unwilling to lose, often times under the most direst of circumstances, was like seeing the true greatness of our national pastime for the very first time… untainted, unblemished, and a grand feast for all your senses. It was a chance to admire all of the game’s intricacies and beauty without all the incessant off the field distractions. It was pure baseball and I loved it. The win for the Mets only made it that much more satisfying.
Some of the best memories I will take away from this game, includes the feeling of jubilation within me after I watched first baseman Alex Cora make that unforgettable putout while diving into the stands and into the crowd to catch that foul popup. You want shock and awe, this play was just that… It was an unbelievable catch by Cora, even Jeter-esque, and it came just seconds after I finished my rant protesting the decision to substitute Cora at first base in the first place. Baseball can often times be so humbling.
Watching the Mets bullpen fight through a bases-loaded nobody out situation three different times to keep the Cardinals off the board and the game tied, was nerve-tattering to say the least, but the exhilaration that came after each third out was registered, made all the angst well worth it. The Cardinals left 22 men on base which clearly illustrates you how truly remarkable the bullpen performed sans Frankie Rodriguez. However, K-Rod’s blown save did add to the buildup and lead to the overall grand finale, so all is forgiven. Remarkably, Mike Pelfrey would get the save which he can add to his perfect 2-0 record to go with his 1.38 ERA. You didn’t think I would forget that did you?
Lost in this amazing test of endurance, were the two warriors who started the game and led their respective teams into this historic foray. Mets left hander Johan Santana and Cardinals newbie Jaime Garcia who was making only the third start of his young career. Both of them delivered one of the best scoreless pitching duels you will ever see in a regular season game. It was a classic battle that pitted a Jedi Master against his up and coming Jedi Apprentice, if I may throw in a cinematic analogy. Both of them pitched like aces, with the much younger Garcia holding the Mets hitless for five innings before ultimately giving up a single to Angel Pagan to start the sixth inning. But Johan, who would not be undone, brought his “A” game and was up for the challenge. Santana gave the Mets seven scoreless innings while striking out nine Cardinal batters in the process. They both walked away like gunslingers with seven scoreless innings each under their belts, and even though neither pitcher would walk away with a win, they had etched their place in baseball history. Nobody knew it at the time, but Garcia vs Santana was just the opening act and there would be four more hours of pure adrenaline-pumping delightfulness coming our way.
Those are just three of the many things that I took away from this true Mets classic, which I’m sure we’ll see again and again on SNY, as the Mets gave their network a true treasure to expand their video library.
This game was truly one for the ages.