Two away, three-two count, the bases jammed...and The Pittsburgh Kid struck one deep. That was ball game, although the mighty McCutch added a two-run, two-out blast two innings later for good measure.
The Pirates played long ball and the pitching was good enough as Pittsburgh took the opener in Wrigley Field by a 6-3 score this afternoon.
Kevin Correia fell behind 2-0 early on, but was able to go six frames, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits, walking one and striking out three. He got by with an economical 92 pitches, and the Bucco bullpen did the rest.
The seventh was a little dicey. Greg Olson yielded up a hit and got a K, and Jose Veras finished the frame while surrendering another knock, but the Cubs didn't score. (They stranded ten runners today; all eleven of their hits were singles.)
Evan Meek gave up a hit and whiffed a pair in the eighth, while Joel Hanrahan put himself in a little hot water in the ninth with a walk and knock, but a pair of punchouts kept the Cubs in hibernation. Hanny was hitting 98 on the gun, and that was plenty of heat for a chilly April outing.
The Bucs had a pair of hits in the first four frames against Ryan Dempster, no-blood doubles by Lyle Overbay and McCutch. But Neil Walker didn't let him wriggle off the hook in the fifth.
Dewey (single), Ronny Cedeno and Jose Tabata (walks) were on the sacks when Walker drove a 3-2 heater out of Wrigley onto Sheffield Avenue, the first opening day grand salami by a Pirate since Roberto Clemente nailed one against the Phils way back in 1962.
The Pirates added another pair in the seventh. With two away, Walker doubled. McCutch took a two seamer down the middle, and when Dempster followed with the same pitch, McCutchen dropped it into the left field stands.
The Pirates made noise again in the ninth, loading the sacks for Overbay with one away, but he lined a shot to short, and it turned into a DP. But Hanny made the missed opportunity moot.
-- Walker and McCutch both had a pair of hits, each doubling and going long; they had 6 RBI and 3 runs scored between them.
-- Cedeno drew one walk in 62 spring at-bats, but was key in the fifth when he worked a free pass off Dempster despite being behind 0-2 in the count.
-- Maybe all the emphasis on the running game in the spring did do some good. Pittsburgh was 2-for-2 stealing, with Pedro and Tabata picking up swipes, and Ryan Doumit threw out Darwin Bailey, the only Cub runner with larceny in his heart.
-- Maybe a little more emphasis should be made on the infield defense; a couple of Keystone Kop moments in both the first and third innings contributed greatly to denting Correia's line. He came out to start the seventh, but got the hook after a pop-up in front of the plate fell between three players. Ouch!
The game was played in a steady, breezy drizzle, and hopefully the mushy track and Wrigley wind had more to do with the miscues than the talent.
-- John Grabow pitched a scoreless frame against his former running mates, striking out one and walking one. A-Ram had two hits against his old squad, but left five runners on base.
-- Don't pop the corks quite yet. The Pirates have now won five straight opening day games; it's the other 161 that seem to give them problems.
-- The Pirates are still a bunch of puppies. It was the first MLB opening day game for Pedro Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Josh Rodriguez, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Michael Crotta, James McDonald and Garrett Olson. In fact, it was the first day on a MLB roster for Rodriguez and Crotta.
That's three everyday players and almost a third of the roster making their opening day debut. Four of them got into today's game.