It was business as usual for the Pittsburgh Pirate’s sharks as they resume patrolling the coast off the Allegheny, and by the looks of it, they are as hungry as ever. There should be a sign on the bank of the river that says “Warning. No runs allowed past this point. Shark infested water. Swing at your own risk”.
Liriano dealt a gem of a game going 6 innings, giving up zero runs and striking out 10 Cubs. He joins Bob Veale and John Candelaria as one of only three left handed pitchers in Pirate history to get 10 k’s on an opening day.
His pitch count was elevated due to all of the Cubs that were fanning on his slider, so he was forced to gut out a tough 6th inning. Liriano was clearly fatigued, but somehow managed to retire the Cubs and hand the ball to the sharks. Kudos to Clint Hurdle on making the decision to keep Liriano in the game in the 6th inning even though Liriano’s pitch count was over 80 after the 5th.. Because hey…it worked.
Tony Watson strolled into the 7th inning and made quick work of the Cubs’ bottom 3 in the lineup. He barely broke a sweat.
Mark Melancon stepped into his usual 8th inning slot and immediately gave up a weak line drive down the 3rd base line to Emilio Bonafacio that turned into a double. Bonafacio was locked in all game though and was clearly the Cubs best player today. He finished 4 for 5 and was spraying balls all over the field. But that hit just made Melancon angry.
After a sac bunt moved Bonafacio to third, Starling Castro grounded to 2nd which resulted in a rundown of Bonafacio as he broke for home and then Anthony Rizzo popped out haplessly to Pedro to end the inning. Melancon let out a roar that sent the Pirate’s faithful into a frenzy on the way back to the dugout. Shark tank people… shark tank.
Grilled Cheese ran to the mound to the sound of Pearl Jam’s “the whipping” and then proceeded to whip the Cubs into submission. After a leadoff walk and a sac bunt, he got Nate Schierholtz to fly out to left and then induced Ryan Sweeney into a baby pop out to Russel Martin to close out the inning.
Most encouraging about Grilli was his velocity. Hitting 96 on the radar gun at one point. He showed no ill-effects from the forearm injury he suffered last year and his slider was buckling hitters.
Bryan Morris enters in the 10th and gets a quick ground out to first. Beautiful play by Ishikawa as he fielded a tricky short hop that was absolutely smoked by Ryan Kalish of Chicago to get the unassisted out. Morris then gives up a single to the aforementioned Emilio Bonafacio only to immediately pick him off on a stellar move to first and an even more stellar swipe tag by Ishikawa.
Bonafacio was initially called safe, but Hurdle challenged and won to record out number 2. Then it was an easy strikeout of Junior Lake to end the inning. Lake is a 24 year old Dominican prospect that struck out 68 times in 60 games played last year. Just a fun fact for you.
So basically, the sharks did their job, as they did all of last year. We talked about this on The Big Tuna show Sunday. Why so many people predict the Pirate’s pitching to regress is beyond me. It’s foolish. We have everyone back from last year, the only difference is we are even deeper then we were a year ago. Ridiculous.
After the Sharks held the game in check, it was time for some Pittsburgh Kid-opening day Magic.
Walker came to the plate a disappointing 0 for 3 on the day up to that point. He grounded into a double play in his first at bat, hit a weak groundout to 1st base in the 5th and then flew out to right in the 7th. He battled newly inserted Cub’s reliever Carlos Villanueva to 7 pitches and on the 8th pitch he unleashed a bomb that blew Villanueva’s handle bar mustache back and sent the Pirates to one win closer to the NL Central Championship.
What a way to start the season… thank you Bucco’s for a great opening act.
Business as usual for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Again….no matter what the so-called “experts” predicted, there is no slowing down in the shark tank this year.
- Travis Ishikawa went 2 for 3 in his Pirate debut. He was the only Pirate to record 2 hits and he played exceptional defense at first base. A wise man once said “trust in Travis”. And for good reason. He will continue to be a solid platoon option at first all season long.
- With this performance, Jeff Samardijza moves his line to 22IP, 10hits, 20strikeouts, and only 1 earned run in his last 3 appearances at PNC park. This just in……he’s good.
- And the Big Tuna opens up the season 1-0 as he predicted this outcome on his show. He is a Pirate Genius folks.
Follow me on twitter @TheBigTuna66 and listen to the latest Big Tuna show for unbelievably precise Pirate analysis. Spot on right again. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sportsbar1/2014/03/30/the-big-tuna-show