PITTSBURGH – Lengthy games don’t bother Tony Sanchez. He played in the longest game in NCAA tournament history while at Boston College in 2009, the Eagles losing in 25 innings to Texas.
So it was no big deal when the Pittsburgh Pirates rookie catcher was called on to pinch-hit in the 16th inning Wednesday night.
“This was nothing compared to that,” Sanchez said with a smile.
The difference between the two is, this time, in a game that took 5 hours, 55 minutes, Sanchez singled in the winning run to give the Pirates a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs — the longest game in Pittsburgh history by time.
Sanchez’s hit came off Carlos Villanueva (0-2), ending the game just short of 1 a.m. and 6 minutes longer the Pirates 8-7, 18-inning victory over Houston on May 27, 2006, that took 5:49.
“The few fans who stayed were really loud and that got the adrenaline flowing,” Sanchez said. “It was a great to be in a situation where I had the chance to win a game for the first time in my career. I was getting a little nervous when I stepped up to the plate then I realized all I had to do was put the ball in play and find a hole.”
Villanueva also allowed Neil Walker’s game-ending home run in the Pirates’ 1-0 win Monday in the season opener.
The Cubs left 19 runners on Wednesday and have gone 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position in their first two games. Yet first-year manager Rick Renteria is remaining positive.
“We did everything we could possibly do,” Renteria said. “The guys kept coming back and that’s a good sign for all of us. As long as we keep going out there and playing the way we’re playing right now, good things are bound to happen.”
Both teams scored in the 12th inning as the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo hit a leadoff home run and the Pirates’ Starling Marte had an RBI single with two outs off closer Jose Veras.
The Cubs ended a streak of 16 scoreless innings to start the season by scoring single runs in eighth and ninth inning to force extra innings.
Chicago’s Emilio Bonifacio went 5 for 7 and is hitting .750 (9 for 12). Luis Valbuena added three hits, including a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning off closer Jason Grilli that tied the game at 2-2 and forced extra innings.
Jordy Mercer opened the 16th with a bunt single but was forced out at second on Jose Tabata’s sacrifice attempt. Starling Marte followed with a singled to put runners on corners before Sanchez, the rookie catcher and last position player left on the Pirates’ bench, grounded into left field for the walkoff hit.
Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton pitched six scoreless inning but was denied the win when Grilli blew his first save opportunity of the season after converting 33 of 35 saves last year.
Cubs starter Edwin Jackson allowed two runs, one earned, and two hits in 5 1-3 innings in his first start since going 8-18 last season and leading the major leagues in losses.
The Cubs’ first run came when an umpire’s call was reversed by video replay.
Nate Schierholtz appeared to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. However, Renteria asked for the call to be reviewed and it was ruled that Mercer, the shortstop, came off the second base bag while taking a throw from Walker, the second baseman, which made Rizzo safe at second base.
Walker was charged with an error that enabled Bonifacio to score from third base.
NOTES: Both benches were warned by home plate umpire Bob Davidson after Morton hit Rizzo to start the second inning. That came after Marte was hit by Jackson to lead off the bottom of the first. Though Rizzo was hit again in the eighth inning, Melancon was not ejected. ... RHP Jason Hammel, signed to a $6 million, one-year contract as a free agent in the offseason is scheduled to make his Cubs’ debut on Thursday afternoon when he faces LHP Wandy Rodriguez in the finale of the three-game series. Rodriguez did not pitch after June 5 last season because of elbow and forearm tightness.