ST. LOUIS — Ryan Ludwick bears some responsibility for the longest game of the season in the major leagues, striking out as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning.
Better late than never, he did something about it. Five innings later, he rewarded the few thousand fans from a sellout crowd who stuck around for Wednesday night’s marathon 7-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Ludwick led off the bottom of the 14th inning with his first walk-off home run.
“My first at-bat I had a chance to win the game,” Ludwick said. “All I had to do was get a sacrifice fly, and I didn’t get the job done, I struck out, and that’s a terrible feeling.”
Rounding the bases after his no-doubt drive off Jorge de la Rosa went an estimated 434 feet and well over the wall in left-center was a euphoric blur.
“That’s the best feeling of my life, by far,” he said. “I remember jumping on the plate and getting mobbed, and getting mobbed when I got back in (the clubhouse). Wow! Wow!
“So I went from probably the worst feeling you can have to having the best feeling you can have. It’s unbelievable.”
The first extra-inning game of the year in St. Louis lasted five hours and 21 minutes and was the longest at home since a 4-3, 15-inning loss to the Montreal Expos on April 26, 2001 that lasted 5:32.
NEW LIFE: For first time in a long time, Kip Wells carries a bit of momentum into his next start. The right-hander who has a major league-worst 11 losses was pressed into service Wednesday and responded with two scoreless innings and his third victory.
Wells worked around David DeJesus’ one-out triple in the 14th, striking out John Buck with two men on for the third out after a perfect 13th.
“Great for him,” pitching coach Dave Duncan said. “He did a great job and got rewarded for it.”
Wells, who has a 6.75 ERA, was told that Brad Thompson would be taking his start on Tuesday only three hours before game-time although he’s scheduled to rejoin the rotation on Sunday against the Phillies. The Cardinals had no intention of using him in relief, sending him to the bullpen to clear his head, but ran out of pitchers.
Wells said he tried to keep things simple, and just concentrate on the next pitch.
“Kip looked great,” said Aaron Miles, who tied his career high with five hits.
“When he gave up the triple he got real nasty and showed what he can do.”
Wells was the eighth pitcher the team used. A ninth, left-hander Tyler Johnson, was given the day off due to a sore right knee.
BRIEFLY: Miles had one previous five-hit game on April 4, 2005 against San Diego, and the latest binge raised his average to .301. He’s batting .360 (18-for-50) this month. “I guarantee you he’ll start somewhere on Friday,” La Russa said. “Either that, or I don’t think I’ll have my job. He’s playing great.” ... The Cardinals won despite committing four errors for the first time since a 6-5 victory at Chicago over the Cubs on Sept. 23, 2000. It was their first four-error game since Aug. 21, 2005 against the Giants. First baseman Albert Pujols had his third career two-error game and first since his rookie season in 2001 when he primarily played third base. ... So Taguchi is hitting .426 (20-for-47) during a career-best 13-game hitting streak, one game longer than his previous best.