Mets Strand 25 Runners Over 18 Innings, but Bring 2 of Them Home in the Last One


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Ruben Tejada hitting an 18th-inning sacrifice fly to drive in Wilmer Flores for a 2-1 Mets lead.

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Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Daniel Murphy took a few steps off third base and lingered there, crouching, looking toward home, his hands twitching. Wilmer Flores was up, with two outs in the 10th inning, and their teammates already looked tired, leaning against the dugout railings.  

At the time, Murphy was about 80 feet from scoring in a 0-0 game against the Cardinals. It must have felt like 800 feet. The Mets have been incapable of manufacturing runs in the most fundamental of ways. They finished Sunday’s 18-inning game, a 3-1 victory, with three hits in their last 62 at-bats with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 26 in this marathon alone.

Flores hit a ground ball to the right side, hustled up the line and made the play close. But the umpire called him out, and he spiked his helmet with both hands. Nearly every Mets scoring chance Sunday could have elicited a similar reaction.

The Mets and the Cardinals played eight more exhausting innings after that. The Mets scored in the 13th, and the Cardinals answered in the bottom half.

The Mets finally won after 5 hours 55 minutes. Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez allowed two runs in the 18th when Ruben Tejada hit a bases-loaded fly for the lead, and Eric Campbell drove in another run with a suicide-squeeze bunt.

“I’m real proud of the way they hung in there,” Mets Manager Terry Collins said.

The win meant the Mets had avoided being swept in the first series of the second half. They left for Washington trailing the first-place Nationals by two games, and the Mets have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard scheduled to pitch the next three games.  

But Sunday’s victory was another indictment of the Mets’ anemic offense. They stranded 25 runners, tying a franchise record set in 1974. Lucas Duda struck out in the 17th inning with the bases loaded and finished 0 for 7 with four strikeouts. Juan Lagares was 2 for 10. The rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki struck out to end the sixth with the bases loaded, ended the eighth and 16th innings with two runners on and struck out to the end the 14th with one on. He stranded nine runners, as did Lagares.

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Mets-Cardinals Highlights

“I’ve never seen more flying helmets in my life,” Collins said.

And if the Mets were not already hampered enough, left fielder Michael Cuddyer asked out of the game in the eighth, telling Collins he could not run. Cuddyer has struggled with a bone bruise on his knee for the last few weeks, but the soreness has worsened. The Mets’ trainers will try an unspecified treatment Monday, but if that does not work, Cuddyer is likely to land on the disabled list. He was unsure how much rest the knee would require. 

“That’ll be our last effort to try,” Cuddyer said. “Hopefully that works.”

Jon Niese pitched seven and two-thirds scoreless innings, holding the Cardinals to five hits, and then retreated to the clubhouse to watch the rest of the game.

Over his last eight starts, Niese has compiled a 2.28 E.R.A. He figured his job was done, but as the game wore on, he decided it was best to rejoin the team in the dugout. 

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In the top of the 13th, Curtis Granderson hustled for a double and scored the first run of the game on a single by Plawecki. But in the bottom half, Kolten Wong homered off Mets closer Jeurys Familia.

The Mets used seven pitchers, and the bullpen held tight in the 14th, the 15th, the 16th, the 17th — for so long that Keith Hernandez entertained viewers with his drawn-out sighing on the SNY telecast, so long that the Mets used deGrom as a pinch-hitter, so long that the Cardinals used eight pitchers, including Martinez, their young All-Star who had been expected to start Tuesday’s game, in four innings of relief.

“You’ve seen it,” Collins said. “We tried to, but couldn’t score. We tried to hit-and-run; couldn’t score. We tried to let guys hit; couldn’t score. There was no answer.”

After Flores and Granderson singled, Martinez misplayed a bunt from Plawecki, loading the bases with no outs in the 18th. The Mets then cobbled together their winning runs, thanks to Tejada and Campbell.

After the game, Murphy and Duda hugged on the infield. In the clubhouse, the Mets cheered as if they had just won the pennant.

“If I don’t see you tomorrow,” Collins told a roomful of reporters, “I understand.”



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