PITTSBURGH – Someone pass the 5-Hour Energy drinks.
The Cubs had less than 12 hours to recover from their second walk-off loss in three days, though technically Wednesday night had already turned into Thursday morning by the time this one finally ended.
After a crazy 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates that lasted 16 innings, Rick Renteria sat behind the desk in the manager’s office and rubbed his left eye, trying to stay positive and avoid the punch-drunk feeling inside PNC Park’s visiting clubhouse.
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The Cubs used 23 of their 25 active players, everyone except starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. Pirates PR announced this became the longest game played in Pittsburgh, including Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park. It lasted five hours and 55 minutes.
“We did everything we could possibly do,” Renteria said. “Just fell a little short. The guys didn’t quit. They kept coming back. That’s a good sign for all of us. As they say, the worm will turn. As long as we keep going out there and playing the way we’re playing right now, good things are bound to happen.”
The Cubs went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position, running their total to 1-for-27 through two games. This time they left 19 men on base.
The Cubs waited until the season’s 18th inning before scoring for the first time, and they wound up manufacturing two late runs against Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank.”
It all left you wondering: What just happened here? Well, the stadium crew did the seventh-inning stretch twice. The two teams combined to throw more than 500 pitches.
Edwin Jackson – the $52 million pitcher who led the majors with 18 losses last season – faded into the background after he didn’t finish the sixth inning. It was a good-but-not-great outing, giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits and four walks in 5.1 innings, striking out five, hitting a batter and turning a long game over to the bullpen.
“There was a lot of battling going on,” Jackson said. “I really don’t think anybody has anything to hold their head down about.”
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Starlin Castro’s first error led to the unearned run in the sixth inning, but it didn’t appear to cause a massive Twitter firestorm.
Anthony Rizzo felt the heat after an 0-for-4 on Opening Day and responded to all the questions about hitting in the clutch by hammering a fastball into the right-field seats for the go-ahead home run in the 12th inning.
But that was pretty much forgotten when Jose Veras bombed in his debut as closer, blowing the save and giving Cubs fans Carlos Marmol flashbacks. Veras walked two Pirates and hit another, throwing 38 pitches and striking out National League MVP Andrew McCutchen swinging to end the 12th inning.
“There’s no excuses,” Veras said. “We’re supposed to get it done and I didn’t get it done today.”
Wesley Wright – the eighth pitcher the Cubs used – escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 13th inning by getting a 7-2-3 double play with leftfielder Junior Lake playing up at third base.
The Cubs ran out of tricks in the 16th inning with Carlos Villanueva, who took the loss on Opening Day and had been scheduled as Sunday’s starter against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. Pinch-hitter Tony Sanchez drove an RBI single into left field and the Pirate Parrot ran onto the field, waving the Jolly Roger flag.
First pitch is supposed to be 12:35 p.m. local time on Thursday, when the forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain.
“We’re not quitting,” Renteria said. “Now I’m starting to see signs of: ‘All right, we got a different mentality.’ We’re going to keep fighting. We’re not going to give up.”