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Right-hander Mike Crotta made his major league debut in the 7th inning of a 4-3 game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Sunday.
Crotta told Root Sports, “I was nervous. Just like I’m sure everybody else was. It’s still baseball. I’ve been playing my whole life.”
He sure didn’t seem nervous on the mound. He pitched a perfect inning with one strikeout, needing just eight pitches (six for strikes) to get through the heart of the lineup.
Manager Clint Hurdle told Root Sports, “He was very efficient. He sunk the ball very well today. He kept his adrenaline in check. A very efficient inning.”
Crotta made the team from spring training after allowing just two earned runs over 13.1 innings.
“It was great. I was obviously nervous to go out there but after I got the first out I felt very at home. “
The Pirates beat the Cubs, 5-4, at Wrigley Field on Sunday after a two run rally in the 9th inning.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who shut the Bucs down 1-2-3 in the previous game, walked the lead off batter, Garrett Jones. Neil Walker followed with a single and Lyle Overbay advanced both runners over with a sac bunt.
Pedro Alvarez hit an infield single which scored two runs –including Walker who scored from second base– to take the lead a 5-4 lead.
Manager Clint Hurdle told Root Sports, “It goes back to the aggressive base running. Trying to be smart, trying to be aggressive…Nick’s [Leyva] a very aggressive third base coach and Neil plays the game that way, when he’s on the bases. Once he saw the play develop from second base, he knew there was a very good shot that he might be able to pull something off. And he did. He’s a ballplayer.”
Alvarez told Stan Savran of Root Sports, “He’s [Marmol] a tough pitcher. I think we just did a good job of trying to figure our pitches. He’s one of the best pitchers, closers out there. When we stick to our approach and swing at strikes and balls that we can hit, I think it goes to show you. We’ll get the walks when needed and we’ll get the big hits when necessary.”
“We stayed resilient. We battled and we played to the end.”
With two runners on, Joel Hanrahan forced Marlon Byrd to hit into a game ending double play tp give the Pirates a 5-4 victory and pick up his second save of the season.
The Bucs combined for 16 hits –all singles– and picked up their first road series victory. A rare feat that happened just four times last season (And hasn’t happened since July 27-29th in Colorado last year).
Ross Ohlendorf made his first start of the season after a rocky spring training. He allowed four runs on eight hits over six innings with four walks (one intentional) and three strikeouts.
Ohlendorf told Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune, “I didn’t show him much in spring training, but I’m planning to do well from now on. I feel like I did better than I’ve been doing.”
Hurdle told Root Sports, “He was building confidence today…That was the best he’s thrown, I’ve ever seen him throw. The things he worked on the side with Ray [Searage] came into play. His direction to the plate, his sink, his command.”
With a 2-0 lead in the 4th inning, Ohlendorf ran into trouble. After allowing three straight singles, and the bases loaded with no outs, Carlos Pena hit a two run double off the right field wall just feet from a grand slam. Pena’s hit was just several feet from a grand slam. Right fielder Garrett Jones jumped to catch the ball and during the play a Cubs fan in the stands spilt his beer on Jones head while reaching for the ball.
Ohlendorf worked out of the inning, not allowing anymore runs to score and keep it a 2-2 game.
Lyle Overbay hit a RBI single to score Jose Tabata in the 5th to take a 3-2 lead but the Cubs fought back in the bottom of the inning. Starlin Castro hit a lead off triple and Darwin Barney hit a sac fly to quickly tie the game back up at 3.
The Cubs tacked on another run in the 6th after Rafael Soriano hit a solo home run off of Ohlendorf.
“It was supposed to be down and away,” Ohlendorf told Root Sports. “It was up. Probably middle away. He did a good job hitting it.”
After a tough loss to the Cubs the night before, a comeback win today means a lot to the players.
Alvarez told Root Sports, “It shows character. We gotta’ play all 9. We gotta’ play all 27 outs…That’s the beauty about baseball. You come back the next day and you either redeem yourself or you keep the ball rollin’. Tomorrow we’ll try to keep the ball rollin’ with another W. I can’t stress enough, we just have to play nine, every game.”
Joel Hanrhan added, “Anytime you can start off the season with a road series win is awesome. Especially with all the stuff that has been said about us and our record last year on the road. Our goal is to go out there and win a series. We were fortunate to do that here and we’ll go to St. Louis and try to do that again.”
Down three runs in the eighth, the Cubs rallied in the inning to score five runs as the Pirates fell 5-3 to the Cubs in Chicago on Saturday.
Paul Maholm received a no-decision in his solid season debut scattering five hits over 6.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and two walks.
Maholm was efficient. He needed just 14 pitches to get through two perfect innings. Maholm didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the 3rd, when pitcher Carlos Zambrano hit a double.
Maholm told Root Sports on what made him so successful today: “My curveball was better than my slider. Just throwing inside and mixing it up.”
“I was happy. I felt comfortable. I was throwing first pitch strikes, throwing inside and mixing it up pretty good.
The Pirates scored on Right-hand pitcher Zambrano early. After issuing two walks in the first inning, Pedro Alvarez drove in Jose Tabata to take a 1-0 lead.
They tacked on a second run in the 3rd when Neil Walker hit a RBI double scoring Tabata who started the inning off with a single.
The score remained 2-0 until the 7th inning when right-fielder Garrett Jones took the first pitch from Zambrano into the right field bleachers for a solo-home run and a 3-0 lead.
Things quickly turned sour in the 8th. Set up man Evan Meek allowed a lead-off walk to pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome, who advanced to second after a wild pitch was thrown. Shortstop Starlin Castro hit a RBI double to cut the lead 3-1. Marlon Byrd reached base on a fielding error by first baseman Lyle Overbay which scored Castro. Alfonso Soriano hit a single off of Meek to tie the game at 3.
Chris Resop replaced Meek, but he didn’t stop the runs from scoring. After issuing a walk to Tyler Colvin, Blake Dewitt hit a two-run double to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead.
Meek told Root Sports after the game, “I felt good warming up. Obviously, when you go out there and walk the lead-off guy, it’s never a good sign. It’s tough. Pauly [Paul Maholm] went out there and did a good job. The team did a good job. Just didn’t make good pitches when I needed to, didn’t make very smart pitches. Not smart location, it just was an awful day for me. You can’t get ahead of a guy 0-2 and give him something to hit. I just didn’t do a good job finishing off the hitters today. It’s a tough break.”
“I go out there everyday expecting to get three outs, and get them quickly. Going out there and having a three run lead, knowing that Joel’s coming after me, it’s a good feeling. It’s a very confident feeling. Obviously going out there and not doing my job, not making the pitches, walking the lead off guy, that weighs on you. It weighs on you hard.”
Closer Carlos Marmol struck out the side in the top of the 9th for the save and the heartbreaking loss for the Bucs.
“You’re going to lose, Maholm said. “It’s going to happen. We’re going to go 162-0? It’s part of it. But hopefully as a group you’re p*ssed off, you’re ready to come win a series tomorrow. We had the game and kind of let it get away from us. You know what, I’ll hand the ball to Meek every time, and all those guys in the bullpen. Everybody’s going to have bad outings.”
The Pirates will face the Chicago Cubs at 1:05 PM/ET for the second game of a three game opening weekend series. Left-hander Paul Maholm will start for the Bucs against Right-hander Carlos Zambrano.
- Maholm, who is the longest tenured pitcher on the staff, is considered to be a veteran in the clubhouse despite being just 28-years-old.
Maholm told Evan Drellich of MLB.com, “I’ve been around. I’ve been through everything. Most of the time, I’m just going to lead by example. You just try to show them how things should be done. … We have a bunch of young guys, and I feel like I fit in pretty good with them. It’s not like I’m ancient. It’s weird to know that me and [Ryan] Doumit have been around the longest. But I don’t think either one of us are old by any standard in baseball.”
Maholm went 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA against the Cubs last season and two of those wins came at Wrigley Field.
The Pirates were 10-5 against them last season and 5-4 in Chicago.
- Third Baseman Pedro Alvarez described the scene in the dugout after Neil Walker’s grand slam in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on opening day as “hectic.”
Alvarez told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, “We’re a resilient bunch. We’re always going to play hard for nine. I think that’s the one message that we’re going to send across. That’s our type of baseball. Play hard for nine.”
- Neil Walker is batting .472 with 11 RBI and 10 extra base hits in 10 career games against the Cubs.
- Rookie Relief pitcher Mike Crotta made the team out of spring training and is soaking in his first major league opening day.
Crotta told Colin Dunlap of the Post Gazette his thoughts on opening day: “I just said to myself, ‘I made it, this is my dream.’ That isn’t something many people get to say or experience.”
Crotta is just one of eight players who experienced their first opening day in the big leagues. The others: Josh Rodriguez, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Steve Pearce, James McDonald and Garret Olson.
Pearce told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, “I have been fighting for this spot since ’08. Three years later, it’s going to mean the world to me. It’s everything I wanted.”
Jose Tabata (LF), Neil Walker (2B), Andrew McCutchen (CF), Lyle Overbay (1B), Pedro Alvarez (3B), Ryan Doumit (C), Garrett Jones (RF), Ronny Cedeno (SS), Paul Maholm (LHP)
Darwin Baker (2B), Starlin Castro (SS), Marlon Byrd (CF), Aramis Ramirez (3B), Geovany Soto (C ), Carlos Pena (1B) Alfonso Soriano (LF) Tyler Colvin (RF) Carlos Zambrano (RHP)
Happy Opening Day Pirate Fans! The season is finally here (although, the weather sure doesn’t seem like it). Opening day brings hope to every fan, no matter what team. Fans everywhere believe this could be the year and that anything’s possible. It’s incredible to see so many fans packed outside Wrigley Field with hope in their eyes despite an 18 consecutive losing season (Pirates) or a 100 + year drought of a World Series title (Cubs).
- The forecast in Chicago today is 40′s with rain but the game should be played with no delays. Back in Pittsburgh it’s snowing, so bundle up and get ready for a new season of baseball.
- Right-hander Kevin Correia will get his first career opening day start in nine big league seasons. He will face Right-hander Ryan Dempster.
Correia told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com the importance of the team starting off strong, “It is nice to get off to a good start. It just kind of gets your confidence rolling going into the year. If you start off losing games, it’s just not conducive to getting on a good streak. When you’re in a position like we are, any time we can win a series, it’s going to be important – especially against division rivals.”
- Ryan Doumit will be the starting catcher for the fourth straight season. Chris Snyder, who is the Bucs primary catcher started the season on the disabled list (back soreness).
Manager Clint Hurdle explained his decision of picking Doumit over Jason Jaramillo, who had a great spring, was because of experience. Hurdle told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, “I think we’ve got enough young guys breaking in [on Friday] that we’ll rely upon Ryan with some experience behind the plate, We’ll use both. I know both of them have worked very hard, and both of them are trying to take ownership of trying to be the best catcher they can be to handle the staff.”
- Clint Hurdle will Manage the Bucs for the first time today. This special day also marks Hurdle’s 20th opening day as either a Manager, Coach or a player.
Hurdle told Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune, “I have always experienced some anxious anticipation on Opening Day, regardless of the role I had at the time.”
“It’s always special, and it always will be.”
- Mike and Mike of ESPN are live from Wrigley Field from 6-10 am today. Fans were packed very early to watch the show and to wait for the gates to be open.
Here are the opening day lineups:
PiratesJose Tabata (LF), Neil Walker (2B), Andrew McCutchen (CF), Lyle Overbay (1B), Pedro Alvarez (3B), Ryan Doumit (C), Garrett Jones (RF), Ronny Cedeno (SS), Kevin Correia (RHP)
Kosuke Fukudome (RF), Starlin Castro (SS), Marlon Byrd (CF), Aramis Ramirez (3B), Carlos Pena (1B), Geovany Soto (C), Alfonso Soriano (LF), Darwin Barney (2B), Ryan Dempster (RHP)
*Photo credit: @Maholm28