Russell Martin

Pirates outlast Cubs, win 4-3 in 16 innings


Fortunately, rain is expected to wash over PNC Park on Thursday. Neither the Cubs nor Pirates are going to want to play an afternoon game after this.

The Pirates topped the Cubs 4-3 in 16 innings Wednesday night when the final player on their bench, backup catcher Tony Sanchez, delivered a pinch-hit single off Carlos Villanueva that scored Jose Tabata. It concluded a 5 hour, 55 minute game that ended just before 1 a.m. The two teams are currently scheduled to play again at 12:35 p.m., unless there’s a rainout.

Some highlights:

– Emilio Bonifacio followed up his four-hit opener on Monday with four more hits in regulation and then a fifth hit in the 15th inning tonight. He became the first player since Dante Bichette in 1998 and just the fifth player in 100 years to have back-to-back four-hit games to start a team’s season and then the first known player to end the second game with nine hits. Bonfacio also made things interesting on the basepaths again, stealing two bases but also getting picked off first for the second straight game.

– Going along with the theme of the first three days, both closers blew saves, with Jason Grilli doing so in the ninth and Jose Veras returning the favor after an Anthony Rizzo solo homer gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the 12th.

– Villanueva, the Cubs’ fifth starter, fell to 0-2 before even getting a chance to make a start. He gave up the 10th-inning run in the Pirates’ 1-0 win Monday and then allowed a run in his second inning of work tonight.

– In the 13th, Clint Barmes managed to ground into a exceedingly rare 7-2-3 double play. The Cubs went to a five-man infield with the bases loaded and none out, bringing Junior Lake in from left field to play near third base. Barmes hit a grounder right to Lake and he made a clean throw home, starting the double play.

For Lake, it was his first opportunity as an “infielder” in the majors, but something he’s very used to. While he’s been exclusively an outfielder since getting called up last year, he played 418 games at short and 93 at third in the minors. In fact, he made just six appearances ever in the outfield before being called up.

– The Cubs lost despite outhitting the Pirates 15-8. They also had the game’s only two extra-base hits.

– The game featured three replays, all after the seventh inning, one of which resulted in an overturn.

According to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, it was just the fourth 16-inning game to take place within the first two games of the season over the last 100 years. The last was in 2012, when the Blue Jays beat the Indians 7-4 in 16 innings on April 5. Prior to that, the Rays beat the Red Sox 9-8 in 16 innings on April 1, 2003 and the Royals beat the Twins 4-3 in 17 innings on April 9, 1969.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.