PHOENIX — More than five hours and 513 pitches later, Cliff Pennington had mud his his hair and a bubble gum container over his head. He even kind of liked it.
Pennington’s run-scoring single with one out in the 16th inning Wednesday beat gave the Diamondbacks a 10-9 win over the Cardinals in the longest game in Chase Field history at five hours and 32 minutes, and it led to some unusual celebrating.
Teammates Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado put water and dirt on Pennington’s head as he was mobbed on the field, and Pennington did his postgame TV interview in a plastic helmet.
“All the innings wasn’t fun, but the party at the end was fun. They were jumping on me. I had mud in my hair. Whatever else you could do, they decided that was going to be good. Then they went with the gum. The mud was what i was thinking about,” Pennington said.
The mud and breaking a season-opening 0-for-11 slump with three extra-inning singles, the first of which enabled him to score on Prado’s sacrifice fly in the 12th inning to tie the score at 9.
“I’m just trying to get something I can hit hard and got a pitch that was good enough. Fortunately it was up the middle and not right at them,” Pennington said.
“I started out for 0-for-whatever it was. I didn’t think I was going to get a hit all year. To get some hits in extra innings and get a big one like that is good. I wasn’t losing confidence or anything.”
The D-backs (2-1) got home runs from Parra, Prado and Paul Goldschmidt among their 17 hits and also got five innings from winning pitcher Josh Collmenter, who was pitching on zero days’ rest after getting five outs Tuesday.
“Excuse me if I’m smiling,” manager Kirk Gibson said to open his press conference.
The way the D-backs did it could mean a lot going forward, even if it is only three days into the season. The Cardinals led 4-1, 7-5, 8-7 and 9-8, losing their last two leads in the eighth and 12th innings.
“I think so. This is the kind of win that you remember as the season goes,” Pennington said. “Two weeks from now, if we find ourselves down four in the sixth, it’s going to be like, ‘Hey, we’ve done this before.’
“That’s not the kind of thing that makes a huge difference, but if you have a good memory to look back on in a tough game or an extra-inning game, it makes it a little more positive. This game, a lot of it is in the head, so that’s a positive thing.”
Pennington, expected to be the everyday shortstop while Willie Bloomquist recovers from a Grade 2 strain of his left oblique, also contributed with his glove. He ran a long way into foul territory down the left-field line to catch Daniel Descalso’s pop fly with runners on first and second after the Cardinals already had scored one run in the 12th inning, and Collmenter struck out the next batter on a changeup to get out of the inning.
Pennington made an even better play in the top of the 16th inning, when he went into the outfield grass behind second base to catch an Allen Craig grounder and throw him out at first. Craig looked out at shortstop in seeming disbelief when he saw that the throw was going to beat him to the bag.
The D-backs won their first series against the Cardinals since 2010.
“It was an exciting game. They score. We score. They score. We score. And then nobody scored. It was like, ‘What the heck?’ I mean, really?” said catcher Miguel Montero, who called Collmenter “phenomenal.”
“It was a quality start for him right there,” Montero said, laughing. “He’s special. Whenever you give him the ball, he’s able to pitch.”
Lost in the back and forth was Brandon McCarthy’s first major league start since suffering a brain contusion and a skull fracture when he was struck on the right side of the head by a line drive last Sept. 5 while with the A’s. McCarthy gave up six runs and nine hits in five-plus innings, throwing 59 strikes among his 73 pitches.
“It’s one of the weirder starts I’ve had. I felt really good. I threw a lot of strikes. I just couldn’t throw any good strikes. Starter two was better than starter one,” he said, referring to Collmenter.
McCarthy, who like Pennington played for the never-say-die Athletics last season, also saw the game as a positive indicator.
“At least mentally a team knows that there’s a chance we can keep doing it. I hate to keep going back to Oakland last year, but it started early, where you just kind of keep getting walk-off wins. You see teams that happen to do it during the course of the season,” McCarthy said.
“You create an identity. ‘We’re not down. We’re not down. We’re not down.’ Don’t be tied with us in late innings. We are going to come back and win it.”