Mets, Cardinals pile up a lot of zeroes

If you had 6.5 hours to kill Saturday, there are lots of ways you could have killed them. You could have flown from New York to London (volcanoes willing). You could have watched "Spider-Man 1, 2 and 3" back-to-back-to-back.

Or, of course, you could have dug in and watched the Mets and Cardinals try to score a run. All day. And all night.

All right, so it "only" took them 37 half-innings to figure out how to do that. But along the way, they gave us one of the craziest, most unforgettable baseball games of our lifetimes: Mets 2, Cardinals 1, in 20 insane innings.

So in honor of all those innings, here are our 20 favorite tidbits about those 20 innings of madness:

Johan Santana


First inning: We start with Johan Santana's sensational quote, to ESPNNew York.com's Adam Rubin: "We went through every single situation that you can imagine, that you can think of out there. ... And, at the end, you see a position player losing the game (Joe Mather), a closer (Francisco Rodriguez) winning the game and a starter (Mike Pelfrey) saving the game. I've never seen that before."

Well, there's a good reason he's never seen that before -- because nobody has ever seen that before. This was the first game since the dawn of the modern save rule in which a closer got the win, a starter got the save and a position player got the loss. Boy, what'll they think of next in this sport?

Second inning: We want you to take a look at the line score of this game, because nobody has ever seen one like this, either:

NYM 000 000 000 000 000 000 11 -- 2

STL 000 000 000 000 000 000 10 -- 1

As our buddy David Vincent pointed out, this game started with 36 consecutive half-innings worth of zeroes -- after which, of course, these teams promptly scored in three half-innings in a row! Unprecedented.

There had never been a game in the history of baseball in which a team (in this case the Cardinals) forgot to score for 18 innings, got behind in the top of the 19th and then tied it in the bottom of the 19th.

The last team to score a tying run in the 19th inning of any game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was a team that doesn't even exist anymore, the 1969 Seattle Pilots (who did it in a 20-inning game against the Red Sox). But that wasn't a 0-0 game. So check that line score again. It's an all-timer.

Third inning: Incomprehensible quick hits: The winning team (the Mets) went all 20 innings without getting a hit with a runner in scoring position (0 for 7). ... The Mets also somehow made it through all 20 innings without an extra-base hit -- and won. (Only two other teams in the last century pulled that off, according to Elias: the 1971 A's and 1940 Dodgers.) ... The winning pitcher (K-Rod) was the only guy on his team who gave up a run -- in 20 innings. ... The 341 pitches the Mets threw were the most by any team in any game since the Royals served up 345 pitches in an 18-inning marathon on June 6, 1991. ... And the hitter who drove in the game-winning run (Jose Reyes) was a man who went 0-for-7. Tough to do, friends.

Fourth inning: As loyal reader Eric Orns points out, one of the Mets' relief pitchers -- Raul Valdes -- got more hits in this game (one) than Jose Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bay and Fernando Tatis combined. Those four went 0-for-25. And Reyes, Bay and Francoeur all spun off scenic 0-for-7s, making the Mets the first team to have three players go 0-for-7 or worse in the same game since Warren Cromartie (0-for-8), Chris Speier (0-for-8) and Del Unser (0-for-7) did it for another defunct team, the Expos, on July 17, 1977.

Felipe Lopez


Fifth inning: And you know the best part of that Raul Valdes hit? He got it off Felipe Lopez -- who, as you might have heard, normally plays the infield for a living. And only one day before that development, Lopez had hit a grand slam off Valdes. We haven't been able to find any other case of a guy hitting a grand slam off a pitcher one day, then giving up a hit to him the next day. But if you can track one down, send it along to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.

Sixth inning: Now that we've broached the subject of position players pitching, fasten your seat belts. We've got lots of fun facts on that topic coming. But we'll start here: The Cardinals got nine outs in this game from Lopez and Joe Mather, two fellows who had never gotten any outs before (for obvious reasons). The last team to get that many outs from position players turned pitchers, according to Elias: Also the Cardinals, on May 14, 1988, in the famed game in which Jose Oquendo pitched four innings of a 19-inning game against the Braves. So what were the odds that Oquendo would be the third-base coach in this game? Amazing.

Seventh inning: Ah, but as you've no doubt detected, Oquendo was (and still is) just one guy. The last team to get nine outs or more outs from multiple mystery pitchers in one game, Elias reports, was the 1979 Brewers -- who rolled out Sal Bando for three innings, Jim Gantner for one and Buck Martinez for yet another inning in an 18-8 loss to the Royals on Aug. 29.

Eighth inning: Meanwhile, we should just hand Lopez the Mystery Pitcher Cy Young right now -- for pitching a scoreless inning (the 18th) in his pitching debut. According to Elias, no pitcher had put a zero up there in a one-inning outing in a tie game and not gotten a win out of it since Cesar Tovar did it for the Twins on Sept. 22, 1968, but under very different circumstances. That was a game in which Tovar actually was the starting pitcher -- because he was allowed to play all nine positions by a triviology-minded manager who clearly had a vision he'd show up in blogs like this some day, Cal Ermer.

Joe Mather


Ninth inning: One more tidbit on that Lopez-Mather tag team: They made the Cardinals the first team to send two non-pitchers to the mound since July 20, 1990, when the Expos used Dave Martinez and Junior Noboa for an inning apiece in a wipeout against the Astros. But as our pal Tim Kurkjian told us Sunday on "Baseball Tonight," no team had done it in a non-blowout since 1945. And even that 1945 game comes attached with an asterisk, because the Phillies used Rene Monteagudo and Jimmie Foxx to eat up a combined six innings of an 8-5 loss to the Cubs on July 22. But Monteagudo pitched 14 times that year, and Foxx pitched nine times. So any resemblance between them and Felipe Lopez/Joe Mather is for entertainment purposes only.

10th inning: Here's another morsel you can help us with. Mather pretty much did it all in this game. He pinch-hit, pitched, played the infield and played the outfield. We can't find the last man to do that. So if you can, operators are standing by at uselessinfodept@yahoo.com. But we do know Mather kept alive one of baseball's most bizarre streaks: This makes three straight years that a position player was the losing pitcher in a major league game that actually counted, in the real standings. Josh Wilson ('09 Padres) and Jamie Burke ('08 Mariners) were the pioneers in this streak. Before that, no position player had gotten hung with a loss since 1989 (Jeff Hamilton).

11th inning: And now one final nugget about Joe Mather: He threw 38 pitches in this game, and, incredibly, none of the Cardinals' real relief pitchers threw more than that. Earlier, Blake Hawksworth had also thrown 38. We've been keeping track of mystery pitchers for a long, long time now. The last game we can find in which none of a team's real relievers threw more pitches than a position player who only got dragged in there out of desperation was that aforementioned Jose Oquendo Classic in 1988. Oquendo fired 65 pitches up there that day. The next-most thrown by any authentic Cardinals reliever was only 31, by Todd Worrell. Crazy.

12th inning: Now let's move along to Kyle Lohse, who spent three innings playing left field in this game and even caught two fly balls along the way. Who's the last pitcher to record two putouts in a game in which he wasn't pitching? Fernando Valenzuela, in a 22-inning Dodgers-Astros game June 3, 1989. But Fernando cheated. He played first base in that game -- for two whole innings.

13th inning:So obviously, with all those names showing up in this box score in all those nutty places, a whole lot of players got used in this game. In fact, Eric Orns reports, the 19 pitchers were the most ever dragged into any game played before September (when rosters inflate to 40).

Ryan Ludwick


14th inning: One of the craziest moments in this entire game was Ryan Ludwick getting thrown out stealing in the 19th inning -- with Albert Pujols at the plate. Elias reports that Ludwick was the first player to get caught stealing that late (or later) in any game since the Wonder Dog, the great Rex Hudler, got nailed by Rick Dempsey in the 22nd inning of an Expos-Dodgers game Aug. 23, 1989. And the last player to get thrown out stealing in the 19th inning itself was the Pirates' Lee Lacy, on July 6, 1980.

15th inning: Over on the Mets' side of this box score, loyal reader Daniel Friedman points out the fun little role reversal in the two-year business partnership of Mike Pelfrey and Francisco Rodriguez. Last year, Pelfrey won 10 games, and K-Rod saved eight of them. But this year, Pelfrey has won two games -- and K-Rod has saved neither of those games. But now Pelfrey has saved K-Rod's only win. How goofy is that!

16th inning: In any game like this, it's mandatory to have at least one Molina brother involved. So how 'bout that Yadier Molina. He caught all 20 innings of this game for the Cardinals, then started again the next night. He's the first catcher to do that since Darren Daulton did it for the Phillies on July 7-8, 1993. But Daulton caught only five innings the next day, whereas Yadier went nine. And we haven't seen that happen in almost 30 years -- since Bob Boone and Jim Essian caught every pitch of a 20-inning Angels-Mariners game April 13, 1982, and then both of them came back to play all nine the next day. We're nominating them right now as honorary Molina brothers.

17th inning: Ever heard of this? The Mets won a game in which exactly one of the first 37 hitters they sent to the plate got a hit, and they got eight times as many hits in extra innings (eight) as they got in regulation (one). Very, very hard to do.

Blake Hawksworth


Jason Motte


18th inning: Thanks to the 12th-inning Tony La Russa double switch that left his pitcher hitting in the cleanup hole behind Pujols (and, in a related development, La Russa's fascinating decision not to send his backup catcher up to pinch-hit), the Cardinals wound up with pitchers batting with the bases loaded twice in extra innings. Jason Motte whiffed in the 12th, and Hawksworth did the same in the 14th. As Eric Orns reports, that's as many extra-inning, bases-loaded at-bats just by one team, in a tie game, as all the teams in baseball combined for last year in all games.

19th inning: Tweet of the day -- from Late Show (and Twitter) genius @EricStangel: "Mets - Cardinals update ... President Obama has just dispatched FEMA to Busch Stadium"

20th inning: Finally, we've had lots of loyal readers assuming this had to be the first day in history that saw both a 20-inning game and a no-hitter (by Ubaldo Jimenez). But nope. That would be incorrect. It's the second day like that, according to Elias. The other: April 27, 2003, when Kevin Millwood pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies and the Cardinals and Marlins went 20. So let's all repeat the two words that summed up this whole day. Ready? Here goes. 1-2-3 ... Who knew!