This is starting to get depressing, and it's only game 2 of the season, from the boxscore of the Cubs' 4-3, 16-inning loss to the Pirates Wednesday night:
Team RISP: 1-for-16.
That's 1-for-27 with RISP over the season's first two games. The Cubs have now lost a pair of one-run games, too, and this one despite recording 15 hits and drawing six walks off seven Pirates pitchers.
The winning run scored off Carlos Villanueva, who was designated fifth starter at the end of spring training but has now thrown in relief in both of the season's first two games. Oddly, Villanueva threw better in relief in 2013 than he did while starting, but has not had a good start as a reliever in 2014. Villanueva threw one good relief inning -- which completed 11⅔ excellent relief innings by Cubs pitchers in which they allowed just three hits (though five walks), one (costly) run and struck out nine -- then gave up three singles in the 16th, including the game-winner to pinch-hitter Tony Sanchez.
There was a whole lot going on in this game, which turned out to be the longest by time in Pittsburgh history (five hours, 55 minutes, just short of the longest in Cubs history, six hours, 10 minutes in this game), so let's hit some of the highlights:
- Multiple replay reviews, including one in which Cubs manager Ricky Renteria (I still have trouble with "Ricky", but since that's what he wants to be called, I'll do it) got the umpires to review a possible eighth-inning double play in which it was shown that Neil Walker's throw pulled Jordy Mercer off second base. The "neighborhood" play at second is not reviewable, but a bad throw like that is. Instead of being out of the inning, Anthony Rizzo was ruled safe at second base and the Cubs scored their first run of the year.
- One of those reviews lasted almost five minutes. That's too long. I think if you're looking at different angles that long, you're never going to find evidence to overturn a call on the field.
- A nice ninth-inning rally off Pirates closer Jason Grilli, where three Cubs singles resulted in the tying run.
- A costly error by Starlin Castro, who is off to a rough start to the year both in the field and at bat, where he's 0-for-9.
- The Cubs' first home run of 2014, hit by Anthony Rizzo in the 12th inning, which gave the Cubs the lead...
- ... only to see it blown by Jose Veras, who posted a ridiculous total of 38 pitches (only 19 strikes) in attempting to close the game. Remind me again why the Cubs needed to sign this guy?
- Another impressive day for Emilio Bonifacio, who went 5-for-7 and stole two bases. Bonifacio has nine hits on the season, as many as any three other Cubs put together, and since this is the time of year when we can put silly "paces" together, Bonifacio is now on pace for 729 hits. Told you it was silly.
- Some nice hitting by Junior Lake, who went 2-for-5 as a substitute, and who also made a slick play near third base, where he was stationed as a fifth infielder with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 13th inning, starting the ol' 7-2-3 double play.
I'm sure I'm leaving something out there, but it was a long, long, long night, the game ending just as the clock hit midnight in Chicago... only about 11½ hours before the players have to be back on the field at PNC Park for Thursday afternoon's game. This Pittsburgh-area forecast makes me wonder if they'll play the game at all.
Two more oddities about this game, which featured 514 pitches (256 by Cubs pitchers, 258 by Pirates hurlers):
According to MLB Network: Bonifacio is the only player in the modern era that has ever had 9 hits in his first two games— Judd Sirott (@Judd_Sirott) April 3, 2014
And, one from me:
Those first two 1964 games featured one win and one loss, and the Cubs had one of the games started by a pitcher named Jackson, as was Wednesday's game. The '64 season wound up with 76 wins. We'd take that in 2014, I think.
Weather permitting, these teams will take the field just 3½ hours after the posting time of this recap. Jason Hammel (making his Cubs regular-season debut) is scheduled to pitch against Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez. Typically, day games after long extra-inning night games like this one tend to be quick, low-scoring affairs. The Cubs have had a pair of low-scoring games... now let's see what they can do about the "quick" part. The game preview will post at 10 a.m. CT.