RAISE IT! The Bucs are on the board in 2013 thanks to a stellar pitching display by Wandy Rodriguez and the bullpen. They shut out the Cubs, allowed just two hits, and hey – the Bucs actually put up a few runs of their own!
Rodriguez was truly excellent, which was awesome to see in his first start of the year. One reason the Pirates may be better than last year is the fact that they’ll have a full season of Wandy as opposed to two months of him. This is a guy that can consistently work his way into the late innings of a game while getting a bunch of quick outs. Tonight he did just that (many of them via the pop-up or fly-out, which is unconventional for him), cruising through the first six innings with just one hit and one walk. He was mixing his pitches extremely well and had the Cubs very much off balance all night.
Wandy is dealing tonight though twitter.com/fsmikey/status…
— Mikey (@fsmikey) April 4, 2013
Wandy started to run out of gas in the seventh, as he hit two batters and yielded a second hit. He finished off his night with a gutsy strikeout of Brent Lillibridge, ending a long battle with a curveball right over the heart of the zone. Lillibridge must have been looking fastball, but Wandy had shown problems locating it with the prior couple of pitches so he dropped in one more brilliant hook for his final pitch.
Tony Watson then came on (against a righty, which was fairly curious) to get the final out of the bases loaded jam. He promptly terrified everyone by going 3-0 on Alberto Gonzalez, but came back to get him to pop up. Huge sequence.
The Bucco offense was better than it was on Monday, although that’s not saying a whole lot. Andrew McCutchen beat the Cubs’ shift with another double down the LF line for an RBI in the fourth, and after Pedro Alvarez moved Cutch up with a groundout, a drawn-in Starlin Castro whiffed on Gaby Sanchez‘s ground ball to give the Bucs a second run.
Neil Walker was not involved in any of the scoring, but he had a solid day at the plate with a single and two walks (one intentional). The Bucs tacked on a third run in the eighth when Starling Marte singled home Clint Barmes, who had doubled.
That set the stage for Jason Grilli, making his first appearance as the Bucs’ designated closer. Here’s the entrance video…
Click here to view the embedded video.
Not all that great, maybe we’ll learn to like it over time. Anyway, Grilli had an excellent and easy ninth, going 1-2-3 while striking out two. The Bucs’ bullpen has been fantastic through two games.
Not only did Tony Watson get that huge out in the seventh, he stayed in the game to bunt after Barmes’ leadoff double and got it down perfectly. He then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Great game for him.
That said, it seemed a little silly for Hurdle to do that when he subsequently brought in Travis Snider as a defensive replacement. Snider would’ve made sense as a PH in the spot where Watson bunted, since he loves to pull the ball and could’ve gotten the runner over with a simple groundout (while also preserving the possibility of getting on base). But that’s nitpicking, since Hurdle’s choice worked to perfection (this time).
Andrew McCutchen stole his second base in as many games, although he would’ve been out if the Cubs had been able to hold on to the ball. That was his 100th career stolen base.
Starling Marte was thrown out stealing in the eighth.
Former Bucco Hisanori Takahashi (who was here briefly late last year) made an appearance for the Cubs, recording one out in the eighth.
Pirates 3, Cubs 0 / Box / 2013 Record: 1-1 / Next: Thursday, vs. Cubs, 12:35