Pirates outlast Cardinals 6-3 in 19 innings

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The Pirates and Cardinals had already split a pair of one-run games Friday and Saturday, but they were just setting the table for Sunday’s marathon, a 19-inning affair won by Pittsburgh 6-3.

Pedro Alvarez hit a go-ahead homer off Barret Browning in the top of the 19th to break the tie, and Andrew McCutchen later added a two-run single that seemed to settle the matter once and for all.

The Pirates also took the lead in the 17th, when Garrett Jones collected an infield single with the bases loaded, but the Cardinals were able to come back and re-tie the game on a Tony Cruz sac fly.

Wandy Rodriguez, who was expected to start Monday, pitched scoreless 18th and 19th innings for the victory. He had been 0-3 in four starts since being acquired by the Pirates. It was his first relief appearance since 2006.

The game was the longest played so far in 2012. 2011 featured a pair of 19-inning games, including one in which the Pirates lost to the Braves. It was the Cardinals’ longest game since they lost to the Mets 2-1 in 20 innings on April 17, 2010.

The Pirates improved to 67-54 with the victory, pushing them two games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central. They’re one game ahead of the Giants for the second wild card.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.