Friday, April 14, 2017

Pirates Take Opener 4-2 Behind Freeser, Fran, Cole & Pen That Hung Tough

To open, the Bucs went down 1-2-3 on eight pitches to Kyle Hendicks, who caught a break when Starling's drive to center stayed in the yard for a loud out thanks to the wind blowing in. With two gone, Anthony Rizzo doubled off Gerrit Cole and then stole third but no damage resulted. Gregory walked and stole second (after five throws to first). Freeser worked a 12-pitch at-bat before getting one down the middle and banged it into right for an RBI double. Javier Baez made a nice play to take away a hit from JJ, but it at least moved David to third. After a short fly out by Fran, Jordy got a work-around walk and Gerrit ended the frame quietly. Cole worked a clean frame despite a bit of miscommunication on a ball hit between Starling and Cutch.

Freeser's stick is sizzlin' (photo via ESPN)

J-Hay opened the third with a single then got himself picked off. Of course Starling followed with a two-base gapper; this club early on is about as fundamentally strong as the Bad News Bears and Marte was stranded. The Cubs went down without a growl. The fourth went quietly. After starting with an error, a DP abd grounder ended it with a whimper. Kris Bryant led of the frame with a double and Ben Zobrist's knock tied the game. J-Hat singled and stole second with two outs in the fifth but was left on the pond. The Cubs had a repeat of what worked last time up - a double plated after Kyle Schwarber's rap/single combo by Baez and Kyle Schwarber.

The Bucs put men on the corners with no outs in the sixth via back-to-back Cutch & Gregory singles, both barely leaving the infield. Hendricks then got the hook after 91 pitches, replaced by Justin Grimm who was greeted by Freeser's hit-and-run roller through the hole to knot the contest. With an out, Fran doubled home a pair, and in typical Bucco fashion, stumbled over second and was thrown out trying to move up on the throw home while putting the good guys up 4-2. Cole Train finished off the sixth with just a bad-hop single surrendered, and save Clint from waving in a bullpen arm by tossing 116 pitches. He gave up two runs on six hits with a walk and five K.
Wade LeBlanc threw blanks today (photo Pittsburgh Pirates)

Bruce Duensing survived a couple of solid swats that found leather to work a calm seventh frame. Wade LeBlanc took over for the Pirates and 1-2-3'ed the Cubbies. Hector Rondon took his turn in the eighth. Cutch roped one that Baez gobbled up, and with two outs Freeser doubled. JJ, still looking for his first 2017 hit, lined out to strand him. Felipe Rivero toed the pitching plate. The lefty gave up an opening walk and then plunked the next hitter. It took 10 pitches but he punched out a feisty Zobrist. A slicing liner was nicely gloved by Starling but was followed by two-out infield single (JJ roamed right to take a ball from J-Hay and Felipe lost the race to the bag) to fill the sacks with Cubbies. A grounder to Freeser finally calmed the waters.

Mike Montgomery gave up a lead-off knock to Fran, but a whiff and DP made quick work of the ninth. Tony Watson climbed the hill and a two-out, four-pitch walk to Schwarber brought up Kris Bryant. He bounced weakly one to Freeser; he couldn't make a the play on it (He was charged with a boot) to bring up Bucco killer Rizzo, who got plunked. Bases empty with two outs, and three batters later they're juiced without a hit. Jordy ended the drama with a 6-3, and raise the Jolly Roger.

The third out took some work, but Tony got the save (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Drama? How about the Cubs loading the bases in the last two innings without hitting a ball out of the infield? And the Bucs again made it tough with too many mental giveaways. But Cole was tough, the bullpen bent but didn't break, Freeser and Fran carried the load and a win in Cubby-land is a sweet thing indeed.

  • Running on solar: David Freese had three more hits today; he's batting .440. Josh Harrison and Amore Cervelli added a pair each while Gregory had a knock and a walk.
  • Joe Madden continued his old tricks by batting the pitcher eighth.
  • Pittsburgh was 4-14 v Chicago last year (1-8 at Wrigley, 3-6 at PNC Park) so this was a golden start to the series even if it didn't score many style points.
  • The Pirates haven't thrown out an attempted thief yet; the league is 14-for-14 against them (2-for-2 today).
  • 24-year-old OF Willy Garcia, released by the Pirates in January and claimed by the White Sox, will start in left field to make his MLB debut tonight. Fun fact: Leury and Avisail Garcia are joining him in the pasture, the first time in MLB history three guys with the same surname will start in the outfield (the Alou brothers played as a unit, but never started together).

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