Major League Baseball is all about clocks these days.
Games have to be faster and more efficient, say the guys in the fancy suits.
But the St. Louis Cardinals’ Monday night win over the Chicago Cubs is proof that the best thing about baseball is that there is no clock. Because of that, there is always a chance for a mega comeback. The clock doesn’t run out on opportunity. Both teams get the same amount of outs, no matter how long it takes.
The game sprawled out over 3:39 minutes but was action-packed until the last batter was retired. The Redbirds overcame a 5-0 deficit established before they even had their first chance to hit then held on to beat Chicago 10-9.
St. Louis starting pitcher Carlos Martinez seemed frustrated in the first inning by a tight strike zone by the home plate umpire. When a few pitches that seemed to be strikes were called balls, the 2013 and 2014 version of Martinez suddenly appeared.
The wheels came off as he walked the bases loaded before surrendering four consecutive singles on the way to his first bad outing of the season.
But before fans could tune out, the Cardinals returned the favor by loading the bases in the bottom of the first. Then first baseman Mark Reynolds cranked a grand slam over the outfield wall to cut the deficit to one run.
The teams traded runs in the middle innings. But the Redbirds poured it toward the end.
St. Louis scored two runs in the sixth to make the score 8-6 and then four more in the seventh, going ahead 10-8 when backup catcher Tony Cruz knocked in what would prove to be the winning run. The Cubs fought back in the ninth with a solo home run that made the score 10-9. But that’s as close as they could come with Seth Maness, subbing for the fatigued Trevor Rosenthal as closer, finally slammed the door.
It was a win by the narrowest of margins in more ways than one. Manager Mike Matheny said after the game that, following three extra inning games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he had no other pitchers available. If the game went into extra innings he planned to “ask for volunteers” among the position players to take a turn on the mound.
The resilience of the Redbirds was refreshing. It seemed last season that when they got down they started to think about tomorrow. In 2015 they don’t seem to know when to quit or how to quit.
To his credit, Martinez didn’t go pout in the clubhouse when he was chased from the game after allowing seven earned runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings. He remained on the bench where he may have been the loudest cheerer in Busch Stadium as the Cardinals made their comeback.
Matt Holliday, Jayson Heyward, Kolten Wong and Reynolds paced the Cardinals offense with two hits each. They made up for an unusual quiet night from Matt Carpenter who typically gets on base a couple times a game.
The win gave the Redbirds 19 victories in their first 25 games, not only the best record in baseball but the team’s best start since the 19th century.
This red-hot ride can’t last forever. But it has been fun while it’s lasted -- and it’s always fun to make the Cubs raise the blue L flag no matter the time of year or the position in the standings.