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CHC@PIT: Cubs lose marathon game on walk-off hit

PITTSBURGH -- For the second straight game, the Pirates walked off with a win. This one just took a little longer.

On Monday, Neil Walker hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning off Carlos Villanueva, and on Wednesday, Tony Sanchez delivered an RBI single with one out in the 16th to give the Pirates a 4-3 win over the Cubs.

Emilio Bonifacio had five hits, and he nearly outhit the Pirates, who totaled eight. Bonifacio has nine hits in his first two games.

"I feel pretty good at the plate," Bonifacio said in the understatement of the day.

He started at center on Monday and at second on Wednesday, then switched to short. Could he have pitched, too? The only Cubs players who did not get in the game were Thursday's starter, Jason Hammel, and Jeff Samardzija, who pitched Monday.

"I haven't pitched yet, but if they need me one day, and I got a chance and they ask me, I will," Bonifacio said.

It was a historic game, the longest ever played at any Major League ballpark in Pittsburgh, lasting 5 hours, 55 minutes.

This is the first time the Cubs have opened the season with consecutive extra-inning games since 1964, and both of those games were also against the Pirates. It was the first time the Cubs played at least 16 innings since an 18-inning game against the Astros on Aug. 15, 2006.

"Everyone came out and battled today," said Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, who held the Pirates to two hits over 5 1/3 innings. "We had pitchers throwing two innings who haven't done that for awhile. Nobody made excuses -- everybody came out and threw the ball. At the end of the day, it shows the heart that everyone has on the team."

Chicago had taken a 3-2 lead in the 12th on Anthony Rizzo's leadoff homer. That was short-lived, as the Pirates rallied against Jose Veras, tying the game on Starling Marte's RBI single.

"Crazy game today," Veras said.

The Cubs' closer got Monday's hero, Walker, to fly out to lead off the 12th, then walked Travis Ishikawa and hit Jordy Mercer. After a fielder's choice, Marte singled to tie the game.

"We got in trouble when we hit [Mercer]," Veras said. "We went to 3-2 with Marte, and he put a great swing on it. I was supposed to get it done, and I didn't get it done today."

Veras wouldn't use it as an excuse, but he warmed up five times in the bullpen before he actually came in the game. He was happy to see the Cubs fight, even if they did lose.

"We battled," he said. "We played a good game against this team. This team is good, they were in the playoffs. They battled, we battled, and we didn't get the result we wanted but we have to move forward and focus on the next time. It's going to happen. It's 162 games -- we don't want it to happen now, but it's early. Better early than late."

Villanueva was scheduled to start Sunday, but manager Rick Renteria said they would re-evaluate the pitching plans, most likely after he and pitching coach Chris Bosio had some fresh coffee.

The game included just about everything, including a well-played defensive positioning in the 13th. Pedro Alvarez singled to open the inning against Wesley Wright, who then hit Russell Martin with a pitch. Walker sacrificed both runners over, although Renteria challenged third-base umpire John Hirschbeck's call at third that Alvarez was safe. After a 1 minute, 43 second review, the call was confirmed.

The Cubs then brought in Junior Lake from left to employ a five-man infield, and it worked as Clint Barmes hit into a 7-2-3 double play.

"We did everything we possibly could do and just fell short," Renteria said. "The guys didn't quit. They kept coming back, and I think that's a good sign for all of us. As they say, the worm will turn, and as long as we keep going out there and playing the way we're playing now, good things are bound to happen."

Renteria did win a challenge in the eighth after Nate Schierholtz hit what was ruled an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. The call was overturned, giving the Cubs their first run of the season, since Bonifacio scored on the play.

After 26 innings over two games, Renteria has yet to get a win.

"What I'm taking away from these 26 innings is that we're fighting real good," Renteria said. "Obviously, we want to come out at the end of the day with a victory, but as long as we're not quitting, I'm seeing signs that we have a different mentality, we're going to keep fighting and not give up and ultimately if we continue to put pressure on the opposition, and maintain some consistency in that approach, I think we've got a chance."

They'll try again in a few hours.

"We are baseball players," Veras said. "We have to find a way to get some rest. It was a long day today."

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