April 3, 2011

Series Victory! 108-Win Pace!

All signs still point to the 2011 Pirates being a new team. After winning only 17 games and one series on the road last year, this year's edition of the Buccos took two of three games in Wrigley Field to open the season. The team also showed resiliency in following up a tough loss with a thrilling, comeback win in the ninth inning off the league's best closer.

Friday: Pirates 6, Cubs 3
The season dawned cold and rainy in Chicago, but we were warm and only a little hung over inside WFC Blog headquarters in Friendship. The Cubs pushed across two early runs - one unearned courtesy of a Pedro Alvarez error - but Ryan Doumit caught a runner stealing and Kevin Correia battled through a few jams despite clearly not having his best stuff.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster cruised through the first four innings but started to visibly tire in the fifth. The Pirates loaded the bases on a hit and two walks to bring Neil Walker to the plate. We had no choice but to bump "Black and Yellow" throughout the at bat - and what an at bat it was. Walker worked a 3-2 count like a ten year veteran, then fouled one off, then parked a straight 92 mph fastball in the right field stands. The Pirates led 4-2 and never looked back.

Assists go to Andrew McCutchen for his two-run homer, Correia for a great Opening Day start, and the Cubs fans for leaving in the fifth inning. It was a great day for Pittsburgh. One win means more than everything negative that had been said in the offseason.

Saturday: Cubs 5, Pirates 3
The story for most of this game was starter Paul Maholm, who tossed 6.2 scoreless innings and scattered five hits and two walks. It was Maholm at his best; the Cubs could hit nearly all his offerings but those hits seemingly inevitably ended in outs. Leading 3-0 on a couple of early runs and a seventh inning Garrett Jones solo shot, the Pirates appeared to have this one wrapped up when Evan Meek entered in the eighth.

Everything came unraveled quickly. The inning started with a leadoff walk, a wild pitch, a double, and an ugly error on Lyle Overbay. Two outs and a couple of singles later, it was 3-3 and it was clearly time to go get Meek. No worries going forward, but Evan just had one of those days where he didn't have it.

With two runners on in a tie game in the eighth, the game was clearly on the line. Choosing slavish devotion to the save rule over the best chance to win, Clint Hurdle went not to his ace Joel Hanrahan but to Chris Resop - who promptly lost the game on a walk and a two-run double. Carlos Marmol struck out three Pirates in the ninth; the game was in the books less than 30 minutes after we were thinking of our ironic Facebook statuses.

Sunday: Pirates 5, Cubs 4
Baseball allows us to do that which we can hardly ever do in life - live each day as a completely new day. No matter how hard we may fall one day, a new game is scheduled 24 hours later. And it looked like the Pirates were going to lose this one too.

With the Pirates trailing 4-3, Carlos Marmol entered to close it out for the second straight day. Entering today, Pirates hitters were hitting .131 off Marmol in his career as he had a cool 15.1 K/9 against Pittsburgh. This cause was lost if one ever was. But Jones worked a walk and Walker followed with a bloop single. Overbay bunted the runners to second and third - a strange move with your cleanup hitter, but Clint Hurdle loves the bunt. And then this happened.

Alvarez hit a weak grounder, so weak that Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro clearly wasn't going to have time to get the out at first. Rather than eat the ball and keep it at 4-4, Castro made an ill-advised throw to first. And Walker didn't stop running. He scored in an Enos Slaugheresque dash, it was 5-4, Hanrahan shut down the Cubs, and the Pirates left town with a winning record.

Series MVP: Neil Walker. Walker went 4-for-13 with a walk, three runs scored, two doubles, and six RBI including the Opening Day grand slam. He also provided flawless defense including a outs on a couple of balls that, dare I say, Freddy Sanchez wouldn't have touched. Honorable mention goes to Jose Tabata, debuting in the leadoff spot by reaching base seven times and scored five runs over the weekend.

Series Goat: Cubs fans. I'm all for making a baseball game an event, but Cubs fans seriously don't want to win. Fans are positively joyful when an opposing player hits a home run into the left field bleachers - because they'll get a chance to throw the ball back, of course. When Correia was pulled after an obvious great start, a Cubs fan above the dugout was in his face as if he had just gotten rocked. Some guy dumped a full beer on Garrett Jones as he tried to play a ball off the wall. Seems like Lee Elia was right.

Also, your ivy is pretty clearly dead.

No comments:

Post a Comment