The Pittsburgh Pirates got a two-run home run from Andrew McCutchen and a very good pitching performance from Francisco Liriano, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds, as the final score of 5-2 tells us.
The Pirates were stymied offensively for the better part of the first eight innings, coming up empty in all attempts to get to Johnny Cueto. Cueto absolutely owned the Pirates for seven innings, scattering four hits and one walk while striking out ten on the day. After his exit, McCutchen finally broke the Pirates’ offensive nadir with a two-run home run off of Reds’ reliever Kevin Gregg. The blast drew a very audible “YES” from this author at a red light while dealing with Pittsburgh traffic, much to the wonderment of onlookers.
The Reds got on the board in the third on a balk by Liriano with the speedy Billy Hamilton on third base. Liriano later gave up a solo home run to Jay Bruce in the fourth inning on a mistake that was up in the zone. That would be all of the scoring that Liriano would surrender, as he exited the game in the seventh inning after giving up two earned runs, on only two hits against three walks. The southpaw struck out seven in his second consecutive Opening Day start.
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With Tony Watson on the mound in the eighth inning, Joey Votto and Hamilton both singled, followed by Hamilton taking third due to defensive indifference. That ended up not mattering, as Todd Frazier took a pitch high in the zone from Watson and absolutely crushed it, instantly putting Aroldis Chapman in play for the ninth inning.
Chapman was in midseason form in his first save opportunity of the year, touching 101 mph on the radar gun while mowing through Sean Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli, and Jordy Mercer. Of the three to face Chapman, only Mercer made contact, popping out in foul territory to seal the deal for the Reds.
What Stood Out
The Reds’ pitching was the story today, as Cueto and Chapman showed why the Reds may be better than though, at least every fifth day. Cueto was especially crafty, mixing in differing routines and pitch deliveries at different times. Chapman threw straight heat for the entire ninth inning, and blew away Rodriguez and Cervelli, both of which had not faced Chapman previously in their careers.