Pirates, Cubs get back at it after 16-inning marathon

( - There will be no rest for the weary on Thursday when the Pittsburgh Pirates try to complete a three-game season-opening sweep of the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh won a marathon on Wednesday, as Tony Sanchez's pinch-hit RBI single in the 16th inning carried the Pirates past the Cubs, 4-3, in a contest that lasted nearly six hours.

Two nights after they edged Chicago, 1-0, on Opening Day, the Pirates plated the winning run again against Carlos Villanueva (0-2), who surrendered Neil Walker's walk-off homer in the 10th on Monday.

Jordy Mercer singled to open the deciding frame, hustled to third on Starling Marte's one-out base hit and trotted home when Sanchez, in his first at-bat of the season, dribbled one through a drawn-in infield to send the few remaining Pirates fans into a frenzy.

It was the longest game ever played in Pittsburgh in terms of time (5:55).

Cubs second baseman Emilio Bonifacio had five hits in the loss and is 9-for-12 this season, making him the first player in the modern era with nine hits through the first two games of a season.

Both teams had plenty of opportunities to end the replay-filled stalemate sooner. Pittsburgh stranded 15 runners and Chicago left 19 on after going 1- for-16 with runners in scoring position.

"Both teams had opportunities to put this game away before it got taken care of," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Now, less than 12 hours after that contest ended the Pirates will send left- hander Wandy Rodriguez to the hill for the first time since last June. Rodriguez was 6-4 last season for the Pirates, but left his start on June 5 with forearm pain and did not pitch again.

Rodriguez, though, has looked good this spring, pitching to a 3.09 ERA in four outings while needing only 89 pitches to get through 11 2/3 innings.

"He sure does feel good; the old Wandy is back," Hurdle said. "It's hard to be yourself when you can't compete, can't participate and can't help. He's looking forward to pitching, I do know that."

Rodriguez is 9-7 lifetime against the Cubs with a 3.60 ERA in 24 starts. He's also won his last three games against Chicago, posting quality starts each time.

Chicago, meanwhile, will counter with righty Jason Hammel, who signed a one- year contract with the Cubs this winter. Hammel went 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 23 starts and three relief outings last season, his second with Baltimore.

A two-time 10-game winner with Colorado, the 31-year-old right-hander has made at least 20 starts in each of the last five years.

Pittsburgh was 12-7 against the Cubs last season.