Reason 12,768 To Eliminate Blackouts: Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Sunday 4/18, 1:20 CT

Yesterday afternoon -- or really, last night, by the time it was over -- the Mets beat the Cardinals 2-1 in 20 innings; the game lasted seven minutes short of seven hours (6:53). Many of you turned last night's recap into an impromptu game thread for that game, which looked like fun.

And yet, thanks to the fact that this game was one of Fox's Saturday selections yesterday, no one outside of New York or St. Louis could see the end of it, even though many who are not Mets or Cardinals fans were interested.

Who does this benefit? I realize Fox paid billions of dollars for the postseason and does these games as part of the deal, but in my opinion, in 2010 regionalizing telecasts and blacking them out does not take into account the national nature of fan interest in baseball. What if MLB allowed, for example, games like this to be posted to MLB.TV or MLB Extra Innings once they passed the three-hour window that Fox carves out for itself (3 pm - 6 pm Central time)? Or maybe a judgment call could be made after four hours? I know I would have liked to watch the end of this game; I wound up following the audio on my phone via the MLB At Bat app, but watching it would have been much more interesting.

Food for thought, anyway. Now, about the game itself: what is it about the Mets and long games? The Mets have been involved in the three longest games (by innings) in National League history that actually came to a decision (there was one longer, a 1-1, 26-inning tie between the Braves and Dodgers in 1920): a 23-inning game on May 31, 1964 (the second game of a DH, no less), a 24-inning game on April 15, 1968 (the longest 1-0 game in major league history), and a 25-inning game on September 11, 1974. (Incidentally, note that Ed Sudol was the plate umpire for all three of those games.) Note also that in all three of those games, multiple relief pitchers threw multiple innings, including ten innings of relief thrown by Gaylord Perry in the 1964 game.

So why on Earth is Tony LaRussa putting backup infielders in to throw in last night's game? As soon as I heard that, I knew the Cardinals were basically giving up. Why didn't they do what the Cubs did on August 15, 2006? That was an 18-inning game in Houston; Rich Hill, who was supposed to start the next afternoon, finished the game with two innings of relief, and the Cubs called up Sean O'Malley to start the next day. (Pitched the game of his life, too.)

Now, maybe the Cardinals have roster issues that would prevent them from doing this. But modern baseball, where no manager seems to want to let a reliever throw more than two innings, can really hurt a team if a game goes this long. (Not that I have a problem with the Cardinals losing last night.) The Mets eventually used starter Mike Pelfrey to finish up -- St. Louis wound up with Kyle Lohse in left field. Why not just have him pitch? You'd like to hope that if the Cubs played a game this long, that Lou would save Sean Marshall to pitch four or five extra innings. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Anyway, as Cubs fans we got two good things out of the game: a completely overtaxed Mets bullpen for next week's series, and the Cardinals lost.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy Rodriguez
Astros
1-0 W-L 0-2
4.38 ERA 6.10
14 SO 4
6 BB 6
1 HR 1
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Ryan Dempster 1-0 2 2 0 0 0 0 12.1 10 6 6 1 6 14 4.38 1.30


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Wandy Rodriguez 0-2 2 2 0 0 0 0 10.1 14 7 7 1 6 4 6.10 1.94

Wandy Rodriguez has the reputation of someone who gives the Cubs fits. Yet, in 13 career starts, he's just 4-4, 3.84, and is off to a terrible start this year, with that 6.10 ERA and six walks in 10.1 innings. Derrek Lee mashes against him: 14-for-29 (.483) with three doubles and three HR. It appears if the Cubs can wait Wandy out, force him to throw strikes, good things can happen. Look for Xavier Nady to get a start today.

Ryan Dempster's career mark vs. Houston includes quite a number of relief appearances (and 16 saves) against them when he was a closer. Those aren't really relevant; more so are the three no-decisions he put up against them last year with a 4.00 ERA. Current Astros are hitting .313 (50-for-160) against Demp with four HR. Today's supposed to be cool with the wind blowing in again, so if he can keep the ball down, it can be a good day for him. (And then maybe he'll stop staring at us. Scary photo!)

Today's game is on WGN and also FSN Houston (for EI viewers). Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Astros site The Crawfish Boxes.

This afternoon's first pitch thread will be up at 1:15 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 2:15, 3:15 and 4 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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