DENVER -- With Tony La Russa working in the front office in Arizona, enter Joe Maddon to carry the torch among big league managers in pushing the concept of hitting pitchers somewhere other than the traditional No. 9 slot in the batting order.
Maddon made the move from the Rays in the American League to the Cubs in the National League during the offseason, which gives him more opportunities to fiddle with pitchers and lineups.
In each of the Cubs' first four games this season, Maddon hit the pitcher eighth -- including on Friday, when Rockies manager Walt Weiss also hit his pitcher eighth. It marked what is believed to be the 12th time in history that both teams hit a starting pitcher somewhere other than ninth, according to blogger J.G. Preston.
The other 11 times all came in 2008 -- and all involved the Cardinals, who were managed by La Russa.
La Russa and Pirates manager John Russell both hit pitchers eighth on July 11-13, 2008, and La Russa and then-Brewers skipper Ned Yost used the approach in eight games earlier that season -- April 15-16, April 21-22 and May 9-12.
A year ago, Maddon hit the pitcher eighth in six Interleague games. He made the lineup adjustment for the first time in his career on Aug. 11, 2013, with Jeremy Hellickson. It wasn't the first time Maddon had a pitcher bat somewhere other than ninth, however. He turned in a lineup with two third basemen (Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist) on May 17, 2009, which resulted in pitcher Andy Sonnanstine hitting in the No. 3 slot and Longoria being removed from the game.
La Russa is the all-time leader, having hit a pitcher somewhere other than ninth in 432 games. Lou Boudreau is a distant second at 74, according to Preston's research.
Night into day
The Red Sox pulled out a 6-5, 19-inning victory against the Yankees on Friday night/Saturday morning. The Yanks came up with a run to tie the game in the ninth, 16th and 18th innings, in a contest that lasted six hours, 49 minutes. It's the ninth-longest game in Major League History in terms of elapsed time.
The longest game in terms of elapsed time was the White Sox 7-6, 25-inning game against the Brewers that began on May 8, 1984, which lasted eight hours, six minutes. After being stopped by a 1 a.m. curfew with the score tied 3-3 in the 18th, it was finished up on May 9 before a regularly-scheduled game. Both teams scored three runs in the 21st, and then Harold Baines homered with one out in the 25th to end the game.
Tom Seaver worked the 25th for the victory, then pitched 8 1/3 innings for a 5-4 victory in the originally scheduled May 9 game.
The second-longest game in terms of time was the Giants' 8-6, 23-inning victory against the Mets at Shea Stadium on May 31, 1964, which took seven hours, 23 minutes. It was the second game of a doubleheader. Gaylord Perry pitched 10 scoreless innings of relief in that game, earning the victory. Historians say it was the game in which Perry broke out his spitball, although the Hall of Fame pitcher explains, "It was a sinker."
The longest game in terms of innings was a 1-1, 26-inning game between the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins on May 1, 1920. The game was declared a tie and stopped at 6:50 p.m. because of darkness. The elapsed time was three hours, 50 minutes.
Hitless in Chicago
Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, playing for an NL team after nine years in the AL, struck out in his only at-bat in his Cubs debut on Sunday. He is hitless in 37 career at-bats, tied with Tony McKnight and Bo McLaughlin for the second-most career at-bats by a pitcher without a hit. Randy Tate holds the record, going 0-for-41 with 22 strikeouts.
The most strikeouts for a pitcher who was hitless in his career is 24 by Daniel Cabrera, who was 0-for-26. Lester is tied for second, having struck out 23 times in 37 at-bats. Daryl Patterson also struck out 23 times in 35 at-bats.
Bob Buhl, who hit .089 in his career, struck out 389 times in 857 career at-bats. He set the single-season record for pitchers when he went 0-for-70 in 1962, logging 69 of those at-bats for the Cubs. Bill Wight ranks second with 61 hitless at-bats for the White Sox in 1950.
Buddy Carlyle picked up the save in the Mets' season-opening 3-1 victory against the Nationals. Carlyle, who made his big league debut in 1999, became the fourth pitcher in history to earn his first save more than 15 years after his big league debut.
Livan Hernandez earned his only career save during his 17th and final season in 2012. Frank Tanana was in his 18th big league campaign when he earned his only career save for the Tigers by getting the final out in a 6-5, 14-inning victory at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 2, 1990. Jamey Wright pitched the 10th on July 5, 2011, in Oakland to earn the first of his two career saves in the Mariners' 4-2 victory during his 16th season in the Majors.
• Lefty David Price became the second pitcher in Tigers history to allow no runs, walks or extra-base hits in an Opening Day start. Schoolboy Rowe also did it in 1936.
• Giants catcher Buster Posey is the first player to have won Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards and play with three World Series champions prior to turning 28.
• Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez turned 29 on Wednesday, but not before he struck out 10 Angels on Opening Day. That gave him 1,961 strikeouts, fourth most for a pitcher before turning 29. Sam McDowell (2,156), Walter Johnson (2,117) and Bert Blyleven (2,082) are the only players ahead of Hernandez.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.