We are just days away from Opening Day of the 2012 MLB season. The Pirates have started 1-0 the last five seasons and will look to extend that mark to six as they face Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. If you haven’t caught the three posts prior to this one, you can check those out by clicking the links at the bottom of this post.
Today we are headed back to March 31, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Pittsburgh Pirates were opening the season up against the Braves and sending Ian Snell to the mound to face the great Tom Glavine. The Pirates lineup consisted of Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, Adam LaRoche, Jose Bautista, and Xavier Nady, among others.
The season started with a Nate McLouth walk. However, he was quickly picked off of first and the Pirates would go quietly in the first. Ian Snell got through his first inning allowing just one hit and stranding the runner at second. The scoring began in the second inning when Adam LaRoche doubled and scored on a throwing error on a ball that came off the bat of Jack Wilson.
Ian Snell couldn’t hold the lead past the third inning as he gave up three runs thanks to a triple from Yunel Escobar and an RBI groundout by Chipper Jones. The Pirates got a run back in the top of the fourth as Nate McLouth singled in Jose Bautista. Jack Wilson tried to tie the game on the same play but was thrown out at home. The Braves quickly got that run back on a Brian McCann homer to start their half of the fourth.
After a scoreless fifth inning for both teams, the Pirates got another un in the sixth as Xavier Nady doubled and scored on a Jose Bautista groundout. Nyjer Morgan would tie the game up after coming up with a pinch hit double and scoring on another Braves throwing error. The Pirates added four runs in the eighth as Xavier Nady hit a solo home run and Nate McLouth hit a three run shot to make the score 8-4 Buccos. Jose Bautista knocked in Nady in the ninth to give the Pirates a five run lead for Damaso Marte.
The following sequence of events was just miserable. I remember sitting on my couch at home in a nervous fury the entire inning.
Mark Kotsay started the inning off with a walk, but Marte bounced back nicely by striking out Matt Diaz for the first out. Pinch hitter Ruben Gotay was also walked, which was the end of Marte’s night. The big bull riding Matt Capps came in to clean up the mess, but didn’t do a very good job at all. He walked the first batter he saw, Martin Prado, to load the bases up and bring the tying run to the on-deck circle. Yunel Escobar walked to score the Braves fifth of the game. Chipper Jones followed that with a 2-RBI single to cut the lead to two.
Capps got Mark Teixeira to fly out to center and the Pirates were one out away from escaping with a win. However, Brian McCann came up with a huge single to score two runs and tie the game. Jeff Francoeur recorded the third out and the teams headed to extra innings.
The Pirates would waste a Freddy Sanchez lead-off double in the tenth Franquelis Osoria would come in to try and keep the Braves off the scoreboard. He would do so with a timely double play to end the inning. The Pirates went 1-2-3 in the eleventh inning, but Osoria countered that with a perfect inning of his own.
Finally in the twelfth inning, Xavier Nady hit a three run home run scoring Jason Bay and Nate McLouth to put the Pirates back up by three runs. Everything seemed to be right with the world and the Pirates seemed in good shape to finally wrap up a wild win.
However, Osoria would be required to throw his third inning and he was tired. He got two quick groundouts before allowing a solo home run to Francoeur, which was followed by Mark Kotsay with a double. Matt Diaz singled in Kotsay and the Braves had the tying run on first. Corky Miller pinch hit for the pitcher and flew out to center to end one of the wildest baseball games you’ll see.
It was an absolute roller coaster for fans to watch, but at the end of the day the Pirates had a 1-0 record (and an extremely tired bullpen). The team would go on to finish 67-95 under manager John Russell. This was also the year they would trade Jason Bay to the Red Sox in the three way deal with the Dodgers. That trade brought them Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen, and Bryan Morris, which seemed like a steal at the time for a player in Bay who would be leaving Pittsburgh in the offseason anyway. None of those guys worked out too well for the Pirates, although they are still holding on to hope for Morris.
2008 was just another losing season for the Pirates, but it started out with quite a bang.
Here’s the rest of the series’ posts: