Friday, April 7, 2017

Bucs Hang On for 5-4 Opening Day Win Against the Bravos

Good pitching was again the name of the game. Ivan Nova gave a soft single to open, then sailed. The Bucs stung a couple of balls off Mike Foltynewicz, with Cutch's first-inning single and J-Hay's ground rule double (becoming, btw, the first Pirate to reach scoring position this year) evading leather, but both came with two gone and they were left aboard. After Nova knocked down nine straight Bravos, the Buc put runners on the corners in the third when Starling was plunked in the ribs and Josh Bell singled, cashing in on Cutch's second liner-to-left rap. A two-out Freeser walk juiced the sacks but Fran's bouncer left them stranded.

Cutch warmed up with three hits and a walk (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

A tailor-made 6-3 DP got Ivan out of the fourth; the Bucs scored again when Starling singled Jordy home, but they left the bases juiced again when reliever Eric O'Flaherty got El Coffee on a well-struck ball to center; that's seven LOB so far. The Bravos got on the board in the fifth when Gregory dropped a two-out can of corn in left; a double brought an unearned run home. The Bucs had an answer against Josh Collmenter when Freeser and Fran went deep back-to-back (and both with two strikes) for the Pirates' first long balls of the 2017 campaign. A one-out Nick Markakis ground rule double to The Notch put Braves at second and third with one away in the sixth. A swinging K of Brandon Phillips and a worm burner to J-Hay prevented any bleeding. Collmenter calmed down to keep the score at 4-1 good guys.

Felipe Rivero took the ball. Ivan went six IP, giving up one unearned run, six hits, 0 walks and fanning four on 93 pitches. Felipe cruised with a couple of K and Chaz Roe got his turn. A walk and boot got him in an early pickle that he almost worked out of. With two gone, Chaz tripled up on the curve to Starling, who lined the last of the three-pack into left to chase home another run. The eighth was Wade LeBlanc's round. A rip and a tweener put Bravos on the corners with an out; Markakis spanked an ankle-high, 0-2 change that caught too much plate into center for a run-producing two-bagger that Cutch & Starling played tag with. Phillips singled in a pair on a liner to right and it was time for Daniel Hudson. It took Huddy two pitches to get a DP ball sweetly snagged by Harrison and turned in a spin-a-rama flash by Jordy after ricocheting off Hudson's mitt.

Tony notched his first save of 2017 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Arodys Vizcaino toed the rubber. He kept it a one-run game and it was Tony Watson's task to bring home the bacon. Tony beaned the first hitter, and a pinch-runner made it to third after a pair of grounders. Darby Swanson caught a 1-2 sinker pretty well and lined the ball to left, but Gregory was there and for the first time this year, you can raise The Jolly Roger.

Now we know the top three in the rotation look solid from the gate and the attack will be like last year's, using volume rather than efficiency to score as they stranded 13 runners and went 3-for-13 with RISP. So the Bucs are off the schneid and will try to make it two in row tomorrow night when Chad Kuhl faces RA Dickey.

  • The Bucs went 16 innings without plating before Cutch's third-inning single. Cutch had three hits w/a walk and an RBI; Starling had two knocks, a run, and chased home a pair. Oddly, he also was the only Pirate to whiff, going down on strikes twice.
  • Worrisome moment: David Freese took a hard, bad-hop shot off his chest in the eighth, but after the docs checked him out, he stayed in the game. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the Bucco half of the frame. We'll see how bruised he is during the rest of the weekend.
  • The shift giveth and taketh. The big DP to stem the Bravo's eighth-inning rally was started on a ball hit up the middle, right where J-Hay was stationed.
PNC Pre-Game Ceremony (photo/Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 36,484 tickets were sold today for a sell-out in theory but not in actuality. It was a good turnout, tho, considering the elements with just a few bare spots in the stands.
  • Matt Kemp, who is off to a red-hot start at the plate for Atlanta, injured his leg while making a diving catch and left the game in the sixth inning.

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