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04/18/10 2:17 AM ET

Save best for last: Pelfrey finishes win

Righty earns first career save in Mets' 20-inning victory

ST. LOUIS -- For 10 innings, Mike Pelfrey estimated, he sat in the dugout with a bat in his hand, aching to be a part of Saturday's wild affair at Busch Stadium.

"I kept trying to tell myself there was a reason I wasn't hitting," Pelfrey said.

It turns out, there was.

With closer Francisco Rodriguez unavailable for more than an inning, the Mets turned to Pelfrey -- who pitched seven shutout innings in Denver on Wednesday -- to finish their 20-inning, 2-1 victory over the Cardinals.

"You've got to really applaud him for that effort to come back," manager Jerry Manuel said.

When Pelfrey saw the Mets use Rodriguez, the last man standing in the bullpen, he ran to the clubhouse, grabbed his glove and lobbied pitching coach Dan Warthen to let him take the mound for just the third relief appearance of his career. With little convincing, Warthen relented.

And so Pelfrey, who had thrown a 20-pitch bullpen session and run wind sprints at 3 p.m. ET, took the Busch Stadium mound roughly nine hours later. He retired Felipe Lopez on a groundout, Joe Mather on a fly ball and -- after a hit and a walk made things interesting -- Ryan Ludwick on a grounder to second.

"It took six or seven hours," Pelfrey said, "but we got it done."

It took six hours and 53 minutes, to be exact, which made for quite a few problems. Because Rodriguez warmed up a dozen times in the bullpen, he experienced a bit of a dead arm when he took the mound in the 19th. He could not have pitched a second inning.

But Pelfrey was eager to throw as many as the Mets would let him.

Going forward, Manuel's bullpen is sure to be tattered, with every member pitching at least an inning. They'll address those concerns on Sunday. On Saturday, Pelfrey made sure they wouldn't have to.

Rather than proceed with a position player on the mound, as the Cardinals did, the Mets had the luxury of letting a starter record his first career save. Jeff Francoeur, who hadn't pitched since high school, would have been the first position player to pitch for the Mets.

Just not as long as Pelfrey had anything to say about it.

"I could have gone as long as I had to," he said. "Physically, I felt good."

Of course, he did. Rather than watch 20 innings from the bench, he was able to play a major role in the victory. And that's what he wanted all along.

"It was frustrating," Pelfrey said of the first 19 innings. "I felt like I wasn't a part of it. I had a bat in my hand for 10 innings. I thought I was going to get to hit sometime and make an impact, but that didn't happen."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.