Pirates win in 16th inning, 4-3, on Tony Sanchez single

Tony Sanchez’s pinch-hit single in the 16th inning gave the Pirates a 4-3 win against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.

The game, which carried into Thursday morning, lasted 5 hours, 55 minutes, making the longest baseball game ever played in Pittsburgh.

Jose Tabata reached on a fielder’s choice in the 16th and went from first to third on Starling Marte’s single. Sanchez chopped a ball through the left side to score Tabata.

“You know, it was like OK, here it comes,” Sanchez said. “I was thinking, everyone is going to hear the walk-up music for the first time. I’m set up to win the game for us with no better situation to get the job done than now. And thank God I did.”

Despite loading the bases with no outs in the 13th, the Pirates couldn’t score. A double-play grounder into a five-man infield and a groundout ended the threat.

Anthony Rizzo’s 12th-inning home run off Jeanmar Gomez broke a 2-2 tie, but the Pirates evened the score in the inning’s bottom half.

Travis Ishikawa worked a one-out walk off Jose Veras and Clint Barmes pinch-ran for him. Veras hit Jordy Mercer with an errant curveball, bringing Tabata to the plate.

Tabata grounded into a fielder’s choice that put runners on the corners. Marte singled to left, scoring Barmes, and Veras walked pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez to load the bases for Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen swung through a 3-2 curveball that left the bases loaded.

“Both teams had opportunities to put the game away before it finally got taken care of,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Two Cubs runs on five hits against Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, the usually reliable late-game tandem, forced extra innings. The inability of Pirates pitchers to retire leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio, a carry-over from Monday’s game, aided the Cubs, as did a strong night from No. 2 hitter Luis Valbuena.

After Melancon allowed a run in the eighth that cut the Pirates’ lead to 2-1, Grilli allowed another in the ninth. The top of the Cubs’ lineup played a role in both runs.

Junior Lake hit a one-out single in the ninth. Bonifacio, who had three hits already in the game, singled two batters later. Valbuena, who was 2 for 4 entering the inning, singled, scoring Lake.

The game also put the spotlight on the new rules governing managers’ challenges and video reviews.

Melancon pitched himself into a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. Bonifacio and Valbuena singled and advanced into scoring position on Starlin Castro’s grounder. Melancon hit Anthony Rizzo to load the bases.

Nate Schierholtz grounded to second, which appeared to start a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play, but Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged the play at second because Neil Walker’s throw took Jordy Mercer off the bag. The play was reviewed and overturned, granting the Cubs a run.

“There’s some sort of a fine line there if the throw is somewhat off or the player has to stretch the coach can come out [and ask for a review],” Mercer said. “But I don’t think any of us knew that was reviewable. Caught us off guard.”

The play wasn’t challenged as a “neighborhood” play, which managers cannot challenge.

“Their manager challenged the fact that the throw, the feed, pulled him off the bag,” Hurdle said.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle used his challenge in the eighth inning to see if a pitch hit Marte, but the ruling on the field of a foul ball was upheld.

With two men on in the bottom of the 13th and no outs, Neil Walker bunted to advance the runners. Cubs pitcher Wesley Wright threw to third, but not in time to get Pedro Alvarez. Renteria challenged the play, having won a second challenge when he was successful with his first, but the play stood.

Charlie Morton’s start Wednesday represented what he hopes will be the beginning of his first full season since 2011. He missed the second half of 2012 and the first half of ’13 while he recovered from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

In six scoreless innings, Morton allowed four hits, walked one and struck out six. He deployed a strong curveball and had good command of his fastball.

Morton played the role of enforcer in the second inning. After Cubs starter Edwin Jackson hit Marte to lead off the bottom of the first, Morton drilled Rizzo with the first pitch of the second. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson warned Morton and both teams.

Morton didn’t walk a batter until the sixth inning when he put Rizzo on with one out. Schierholtz ripped a line drive back toward the mound that ricocheted off Morton’s glove and directly to Mercer. Mercer caught it and doubled Rizzo off first to end the inning. The impact of the ball hurt Morton’s hand – “right on the thumb,” he said – and he was forced from the game. Hurdle said X-rays revealed no fracture.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. Jenn Menendez contributed. First Published April 3, 2014 1:22 AM

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