Life After Littlefield: Pirates drop first series 2-1 to the Cubs


Jarrod Blumer, Contributor

What started out to look like a day in the middle of December, Opening Day eventually began to look like a usual Opening Day in Pittsburgh, weather-wise that is.  Being there first hand, you could feel the buzz in the sold out stadium as AJ Burnett took the mound to start the game.

From the first pitch you could tell AJ was dialed in, touching the mid-90s with his fastball and getting swinging strikes on the curveball.  However, Anthony Rizzo did his best to rattle AJ as he delivered a fastball the right-centerfield stands, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.  After that, the game was really a blur of strikeouts and 1-2-3 innings for both AJ and Cubs’ starter Jeff Samardzija up until the top of the 6th.  The Cubs tagged AJ for another run making it 3-0 after Wellington Castillo doubled in Nate Schierholtz.  AJ exited the game after that with a final line of 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10K.  A solid first outing in my opinion.

Samardzija was in cruise control all game, limiting the Pirates to just 2 hits over his 8 innings of work while striking out 9 in the process.  Pittsburgh really didn’t put up a fight till the last inning, as they were able to touch up Cubs’ erratic closer Carlos Marmol for a run on a Pedro Alvarez single that drove in Andew McCutchen. Final score Cubs 3 Pirates 1.

Tuesday’s game started out the same way, cold and scoreless as Pirates’ starter Wandy Rodriguez and Cubs’ starter Edwin Jackson brought some of their best stuff to the ballpark that night.  It was all zeros until the 4th when Garrett Jones came around to score on an Andrew McCutchen double and a run scoring on an error by Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro.

Jackson was done after 5, giving up 2 runs n striking out 5.  Wandy was great through 6, but ran into trouble in the 7th as he loaded up the bases with only 1 out.  After a long at-bat Wandy punched out Chicago’s Brent Lillibridge looking for the second out, then turned the game over to reliever Tony Watson, who got Alberto Gonzalez to fly out with the bases loaded.  Pittsburgh got an insurance run in the 7th on an RBI single for Starling Marte and that was all she wrote, as newly appointed closer Jason Grilli shut the door for the save. Final score Pirates 3 Cubs 0.

Today’s game was another pitchers’ duel all the way till the 9th with Pirates starter James McDonald and Chicago’s Travis Wood going 7 and 6 strong innings, respectively.  It was 1-0 Chicago from the 3rd to the 9th when they tacked on a 2-run homerun by Nate Schierholtz off Pirates’ reliever Jared Hughes. However, in the Pirates’ half of the 9th they had Cubs’ closer Carlos Marmol on the ropes again after a single by Marte, a walk by Russell Martin, an RBI single by McCutchen scoring Marte, followed by an RBI single by Gaby Sanchez making it 3-2 with runners on the corners and nobody out.  Pedro is now at bat.  If Pittsburgh wants to make the postseason, these are the situations that Pedro has to cash in on. Not strike out on 3 pitches, which is what he did.  All hope wasn’t lost though, as Neil Walker came up with still a solid RBI opportunity. It was all for not as he grounded into a game-ending double play. Buzz kill of all buzz kills.

Pirates head west to take on the Dodgers tomorrow for 3 and then the Diamondbacks for another 3.  Should be an eventful roadtrip. First pitch is at 10:10 PM tomorrow.