The baseball season is often compared to a marathon, but the Pittsburgh Pirates weren’t expecting to run one on Day 2.
Tony Sanchez made sure nearly six hours of work wasn’t for naught, as he delivered the Bucs’ second straight walkoff win with an RBI single in the 16th inning. The final run count was 4-3 in favor of Pittsburgh, which improved to 2-0 just after 1 a.m. at PNC Park.
There weren’t many fans remaining from a healthy Wednesday night crowd when Sanchez bounced a 2-0 pitch from Opening Day loser Carlos Villanueva into left field. It was Sanchez’ first at-bat of the season, and it followed singles from Jordy Mercer and Starling Marte to start the inning.
The game would’ve ended well shy of its Pittsburgh-record length of 5 hours, 55 minutes had Marte not come through with a game-tying, two-out single in the bottom of the 12th. Travis Ishikawa (walk) and Mercer (hit by pitch) reached against former Pirate Jose Veras to give Marte his opportunity in the clutch.
Veras rebounded to strike out reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen on a full-count, bases-loaded slider, extending the fun. Pittsburgh had a glorious chance to win in the 13th, when Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Neil Walker loaded the bases with no outs against Wesley Wright. However, Clint Barmes bounced into a third-to-home-to-first double play, then Jose Tabata grounded out.
Rookie reliever Stolmy Pimentel pitched the final four innings for the Bucs, allowing five baserunners but striking out four to escape trouble. Tony Watson and Justin Wilson also tossed scoreless frames out of the Pirates bullpen.
Other members of the “Shark Tank” weren’t quite as effective, as the final two innings provided enough drama for one night on their own. With the Pirates leading 2-0 after seven, Mark Melancon appeared to escape a serious jam in the eighth when Nate Schierholtz tapped into what was initially ruled a bases-loaded double play.
However, MLB’s new video review deemed that Walker’s relay throw to shortstop Mercer pulled the latter off second base. As a result, a run scored to cut the margin to 2-1.
That set up Jason Grilli, who didn’t blow a save until mid-June last season, in the top of the ninth. But the fiery righty suffered his first squandered lead in his first chance of 2014 when Luis Valbuena lined a two-out RBI single to right. The Chicago rally was extended the batter previous by the scorching-hot Emilio Bonifacio, who went 5 for 7 to improve his two-game average to .750.
Marte and Mercer had two hits each, with Mercer’s two-out RBI giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the second. Starlin Castro‘s error allowed Pittsburgh’s second run in the sixth.
Just like Francisco Liriano did on Opening Day, Bucs starter Charlie Morton pitched six scoreless innings. He allowed four hits but fanned six, a relatively-high total for Morton’s sinker-heavy repertoire.