Tony La Russa was so strapped for arms in the 20-inning loss to the New York Mets on Saturday night he'd have asked Rick Ankiel to pitch if the one-time phenom left-hander had still been with the Cardinals.
La Russa used 10 pitchers in Saturday’s near 7-hour, 2-1 loss to New York, including two position players who worked the final three innings. Ankiel, who because of control problems ditched a once-promising pitching career in 2005 and returned to the majors in 2007 as an outfielder, was with the Cardinals his entire career before signing as a free agent with the Royals in the offseason.
“We never had that game when he was here,” La Russa said Sunday before the teams played again. “I never asked him ahead of time, I never wanted to spook him.”
“But in a game like yesterday I would have,” La Russa said. “That would have been fun.”
La Russa said he never would have asked Ankiel to pitch in a mop-up role, only if the game was on the line. La Russa said he wasn’t sure how Ankiel would have responded.
“His mind-set’s on the outfield, and I never wanted to distract him,” La Russa said. “But I watched him play catch and the ball’s just like the old days.”
Ankiel had control problems for years and also underwent elbow surgery before ditching a promising pitching career.
He won 11 games and struck out 194 as a 20-year-old rookie in 2000, but he was never the same after becoming the first major league pitcher in more than a century to throw five wild pitches in one inning in the Cardinals’ playoff opener that season.
The Cardinals stranded 22 runners in the loss. As the game dragged on, La Russa said hitters were trying too hard.
“We had so many defensive heroes in that game, we just didn’t have an offensive hero,” the manager said. “In a way it’s the best lesson because guys are just jumping out of their skin.
“It was painful to watch,” he said
St. Louis left the bases loaded in the 10th, 12th and 14th innings.
“We caught a lot of breaks,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “I was on the first step headed down and, ‘Oh we’ve got a shot, we’ve still got a shot!’ ”
The Mets won despite failing to score against utilityman Felipe Lopez in the 18th before scoring single runs in the 19th and 20th off utilityman Joe Mather.
“All the pressure is on the hitter,” Manuel said. “You don’t get a hit now, maybe you don’t belong here.”
La Russa said he did not second-guess himself on any of his moves, including removing Matt Holliday in a double switch in the 11th inning — a move that left the pitcher batting cleanup.
“He’s coughing, got a fever and got five at-bats and struck out three times and a pop-up,” La Russa said.
Holliday was in the lineup again Sunday night.
The game was the longest in the majors since Colorado beat San Diego, 2-1, in 22 innings on April 17, 2008.
Jose Reyes hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Mike Pelfrey, a starter pressed into relief duty, earned his first career save in a game that included 19 pitchers and lasted 6 hours, 53 minutes.
Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez allowed the tying run in the 19th inning after warming up several times, estimating he’d thrown as many as 100 pitches in the bullpen.
The New York Mets designated infielder Mike Jacobs for assignment, recalling right-hander Tobi Stoner to add some bullpen depth to the team one day after playing 20 innings. …
San Francisco Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand was placed on the 15-day disabled list, two days after a fastball to his head from the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla left him with two small fractures in his left cheekbone and a mild concussion. …
The Dodgers optioned struggling reliever Russ Ortiz to Triple-A Albuquerque and promoted right-hander Jon Link from the team’s top farm club.