This Day in Pittsburgh Pirates History: A.J. Burnett Out Dueled on Opening Day
By Marty Leap
The 2013 season was a historic one for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it started with a loss against their division rival Chicago Cubs
April 1, 2013, this was the day one of the greatest seasons in Pittsburgh Pirates history began. On this day, the Pirates welcomed their National League Central division rival Chicago Cubs to PNC Park for Opening Day.
In this game, the Pittsburgh Pirates would come up short. This was despite the best efforts of starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. Despite the loss, this was the start of a 94 win season for the Pirates. These 94 wins gave the team their first winning season, and postseason appearance, since 1992.
Opposing Burnett on this Opening Day was long time, and current, Pirate killer Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs right-handed starter pitched 8 dominant innings this day.
As for Burnett, his day got off to a rocky start. With one out in the inning Starlin Castro singled to left field. This was followed by a 2-run home run by Anthony Rizzo. Quickly, the Pirates found themselves in a 2-0 hole.
Burnett would then settle in. He would retire 14 of the next 19 batters he faced, this included striking out the side twice. After allowing a run-scoring double to Wellington Castillo, who was thrown out on the bases, with one out in the top of the 6th inning, Burnett was lifted for Justin Wilson who got the final out of the inning.
In 5.2 innings of work, Burnett allowed 3 runs on six hits, a walk, he hit a batter, and he struck out 10. Burnett also had the rosin bag explode on him early in the game. The juices must have really been flowing for Burnett that day.
While Burnett pitched well, Samardzija was lights out. Samardzija did not allow a run on two hits, a walk, and nine strikeouts in 8 innings of work. With the Cubs leading 3-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Carlos Marmol took over for Samardzija. With one out in the inning, Marmol hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch. McCutchen then stole second base and scored on a Pedro Alavarez single. After Gaby Sanchez walked, Marmol was pulled.
With two runners on base, one out, and the Pirates trailing 3-1, Cubs manager Dale Sveum summoned James Russell from the bullpen. The long haired lefty got Neil Walker to fly out to right field before being lifted for Kyuji Fujikawa. Making his Pittsburgh Pirates debut, catcher Russell Martin lined out to left field to end the game.
Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the Chicago Cubs by a score of 3-1 on Opening Day 2013, it would not be a sign of things to come for the 2013 edition of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. The team started 1-5, but they would then go 93-63 in their 156 remaining games. This led to the team earning a berth in the National League Wild Card Game, creating one of the most memorable nights in the history of Pittsburgh sports.