Walker slams Bucs into opening day victory over Cubs, 6-3
The Pittsburgh Kid Neil Walker hit a bases loaded two out grand slam off of Ryan Dempster in the 5th inning as the Pirates went on to beat the Cubs 6-3 on opening day 2011.
Walker was just the second Pirate in team history to hit a grand slam on opening day. The other? The great one, Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente on April 10th, 1962. Walker, who grew up in Pittsburgh, will forever be a part of Pirates history –the team he grew up rooting for.
Trailing 2-0 to the Cubs, Ryan Doumit lead off the 5th with a single to center field. Ronny Cedeno worked a walk and pitcher Kevin Correia came to the plate. It looked like Manager Clint Hurdle’s extra work in spring training paid off as Correia dropped down a perfect sac bunt to move the runners. Ryan Dempster walked a second batter in the inning, Jose Tabata, to load the bases. Walker worked a seven pitch at-bat before driving a 3-2 fastball over the right field wall. Wrigley field was quiet as four Pirates touched home plate and took a 4-2 lead.
Walker told Stan Savran of Root Sports after the game, “I got ahead in the count. I had to make sure I wasn’t trying to do too much but use the big part of the field. He just walked two guys so I really wasn’t trying to do too much but get myself in a good position to hit and swing the bat. Fortunately I got into 3-2 [count] and he kind of made a mistake over the plate and was able to do something with it.”
“Definitely a special feeling, there’s no doubt about it. More along the lines of helping the team win today is more special. We had a great game today.”
Walker doubled in the 7th inning before Center Fielder Andrew McCutchen homered off of Dempster in the 7th to stretch the lead, 6-2.
Right-hand Pitcher Kevin Correia made his Bucco debut and his first career opening day nod. He was greeted on the mound by Manager Clint Hurdle n the 7th inning with two words: “Great game.” Correia allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts over six plus innings.
The Cubs scored in the bottom of the 7th after a wild pitch thrown by lefty Scott Olson advanced Darwin Barney to second base. Kosuke Fukudome drove him in with a single to cut the lead to 6-3.
Set up man Evan Meek came into the pitch the 8th. He allowed a lead off hit but retired the next three in a row, including a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
Joel Hanrahan, who Hurdle selected as the teams closer in spring training, allowed one hit and a walk in the 9th before striking out both Blake Dewitt and Marlon Byrd with 98 mph fastballs.
With the Pirates 6-3 victory, they have now won five straight opening day games which is tied for the lead in the majors with the New York Mets.