MLB Opening Day: Pirates Defeat Cubs 6-3, Look Terrific

The Pirates begin their season against the Cubs, Cardinals and Rockies.

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Pirates Vs. Cubs: Neil Walker Leads Team Effort In 6-3 Opening Day Win

Pittsburgh product Neil Walker hit a decisive grand slam in the top of the fifth inning as the Pirates won their Opening Day matchup against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The Pirates may not be a top major-league team, or even close to it, but they played like one today. Walker hit his grand slam and also doubled, and Andrew McCutchen also homered (a two-run shot) and doubled. But Kevin Correia pitched a quality start with a solid outing in which he wasn’t exactly dominant, but got more than enough out of his breaking ball and control to keep the Cubs in their cages. The bullpen behind him was excellent, with Garrett Olson, Jose Veras, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan combining for five strikeouts in three scoreless innings, and Hanrhan touching 99 MPH on the radar gun.

The Pirates also drew seven walks against Cubs pitchers, as starter Ryan Dempster labored through 6.2 innings. And Ryan Doumit played a surprisingly good game behind the plate, blocking several pitches and throwing out a runner at second. The only drawback was that the Pirates dropped two infield popups, but that was surely partly due to all the wind at Wrigley.

This was an excellent game for the Pirates overall, and hopefully it’ll give them something to build on over the next couple of weeks.

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MLB Opening Day, Pirates Vs. Cubs: Neil Walker And Andrew McCutchen Strike Again As Bucs Go Up 6-2

The Pirates tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh, as Neil Walker hit a two-out double and Andrew McCutchen homered to left-center to drive him in. The Cubs finally then removed Ryan Dempster, and frankly it was incredible that they had stuck with him that long – he had been laboring for several innings.

If there has been any problem with this game from the Pirates’ perspective, it has been that they’ve struggled with the wind at Wrigley, failing to catch two fly balls in the infield. They just missed the second one, and apparently Clint Hurdle will use that as his excuse to remove Kevin Correia. Correia has pitched very well overall, mostly keeping the ball in the zone and flashing a good breaking ball at times.

There’s a ton of chatter about the game going on at the Pirates blog Bucs Dugout. Also check out the Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue.

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Pirates Vs. Cubs: Neil Walker's Grand Slam Gives Pirates 4-2 Lead

Other than the Pedro Alvarez miscue I mentioned earlier, the Pirates have actually been playing reasonably well. Kevin Correia has gotten the job done, and there have been some really nice moments – Ronny Cedeno taking a big walk (which he might not have done last year), some surprisingly good defensive moments by Ryan Doumit, doubles by Andrew McCutchen and Lyle Overbay. But until a second ago, the Pirates didn’t have much to show for all of that even though Ryan Dempster had thrown a number of bad pitches and was struggling, in some cases, to throw strikes.

Enter Neil Walker, who came on with the bases loaded, worked the count full against Dempster, and socked a pitch over the right field fence at Wrigley to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead. That was excellent. The Pirates have outplayed the Cubs so far today, and the score now reflects that. Correia is still on the mound in the bottom of the fifth.

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Pirates Vs. Cubs: Chicago Scores In First Inning On Opening Day, Leads 1-0

The Cubs have taken a 1-0 lead in their season-opening game against the Pirates this afternoon. The Bucs weren’t able to score in the top of the first despite a two-out double by Andrew McCutchen. In the bottom of the inning, Pedro Alvarez failed to record an out on a hard-hit ball, then threw a ball over the head of Lyle Overbay (who, in trying to make the out at first, didn’t jump for it), and the Cubs put a run on the board. Kevin Correia is throwing 87-89 MPH and was hit fairly hard, although it was only one inning.

Alvarez just finished his first at-bat of the year in the top of the second, and he grounded out. Not a great start for Pedro.

For more on the game, and to follow the game with fellow fans, check out Bucs Dugout for the Pirates and Bleed Cubbie Blue for the Cubs.

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MLB Opening Day, Pirates Vs. Cubs: Lineups, TV Schedule, And Links

The Pirates play their first game of the MLB season at 2:20 today against the Chicago Cubs. It will be broadcast on Root Sports (formerly FSN Pittsburgh) and 104.7 FM. Here are the lineups:

PIRATES

1. Jose Tabata LF
2. Neil Walker 2B
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Lyle Overbay 1B
5. Pedro Alvarez 3B
6. Ryan Doumit C
7. Garrett Jones RF
8. Ronny Cedeno SS
9. Kevin Correia P

CUBS

1. Kosuke Fukudome RF
2. Starlin Castro SS
3. Marlon Byrd CF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Carlos Pena 1B
6. Geovany Soto C
7. Alfonso Soriano LF
8. Darwin Barney 2B
9. Ryan Dempster P

Also, I answer some getting-to-know-you questions about the Pirates for Bleed Cubbie Blue, and BCB manager Al Yellon does the same at Bucs Dugout. Here, by the way, is the game thread at Bucs Dugout, which is a great place to check in on the game with other Pirates fans.

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MLB Opening Day Scores: Tigers Vs. Yankees, Giants Vs. Dodgers

Here are your MLB Opening Day scores. The Pirates didn’t play Thursday, but there were several games that counted.

The Yankees beat the Tigers, 6-3. Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia racked up 15 strikeouts between them, but what might have been a pitcher’s duel really wasn’t, as Mark Teixeira hit a three-run homers off Verlander in the third. Curtis Granderson homered off Phil Coke in the seventh to score the go-ahead run for the Yanks.

The late game between the Giants and Dodgers really was a pitcher’s duel, as Tim Lincecum allowed only one run, an unearned one, but took the loss as the Dodgers won 2-1. Clayton Kershaw was brilliant, striking out nine batters and allowing four hits over seven innings.

Torii Hunter and Jeff Mathis homered and Jered Weaver pitched 6.1 scoreless innings as the Angels beat the Royals, 4-2. Former Pirate prospect and Rule 5 pick Nathan Adcock pitched an inning for the Royals, allowing no runs and two hits.

Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run walk-off homer in the Reds’ 7-6 victory over the Brewers. Cameron Maybin came up big in the Padres 5-3 11-inning win over the Cardinals, homering in the ninth to tie the game and singling in the winning run two innings later. Albert Pujols grounded into three double plays for the Cards. Meanwhile, Derek Lowe pitched 5.2 scoreless innings as the Braves shut out the Nats, 2-0.

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MLB Predictions: Pirates Projected To Finish Near Bottom Of NL Central

As we get set for baseball’s Opening Day, here are a few predictions on how things might go in the N.L. Central:

Rob Neyer of SBNation.com predicts that the St. Louis Cardinals will win the division and that the Pirates will finish in fifth place with 70 wins.

You have to hand it to the Pittsburgh Pirates … They are literally the only team in the majors that’s finished in sixth place since 2006. Granted, they play in the only six-team division in the majors, but still: four straight sixth-place finishes is impressive, in its twisted way. Anyway, it says here the Pirates will not finish sixth in 2011, thanks to their passel of young and talented hitters. Granted, it’ll be a struggle but we’ve got them acing out the Astros for next-to-last place.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also predicts the Pirates will win 70 games.

Yahoo Sports has one of its authors picking the Pirates to finish fifth, with the other predicting they’ll finish last. Both have the Reds finishing first.

As a Pirates fan, I’m happy to see people projecting the Pirates will win 70 games, and there’s no doubt that the smart money has them winning more than they did last year, if only because losing 105 games is really, really hard to do. But I think 70 might actually be a bit optimistic, if only because the Bucs did little to upgrade a defense that was one of the biggest causes of their problems last year, and because I don’t think the offseason acquisitions (Lyle Overbay, Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz) will help much. I predict they’ll win 67 games.

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Report: Pirates Might Not Be Done With Roster

It appears that the Pirates have chosen which 25 players they’ll have on their roster for Opening Day, but that might not be the case, writes the Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic.

But there could be changes. The Pirates still must make a move on the 40-man roster to clear space for [reliever Jose] Veras, and there were strong indications that more than that was afoot.

“The roster’s not set,” manager Clint Hurdle said after the game. “There are things out there spinning around, and you never know. But the people we have here, if nothing changes, we feel confident to go out and get involved in the season. That’s why we worked hard all season.”

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Pirates making some sort of move to acquire a pitcher – Joe Beimel and Scott Olsen, who were supposed to be members of the Pirates’ staff, are currently injured. And James McDonald also has a minor injury, and his status is unknown.

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MLB Schedule: Times And TV Information For Opening Day Games

The Pirates don’t have the first game of their 2011 regular season until Friday, but the season actually begins Thursday. Here’s a look at the MLB schedule that day.

The Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees kick off Opening Day at 1:05 PM on ESPN, with Justin Verlander facing C.C. Sabathia. Also at 1:05, the Atlanta Braves will face with Washington Nationals, with Derek Lowe taking on Livan Hernandez (and I’d make fun of the Nationals here for having Livan Hernandez as their Opening Day starter, but hey, the team I’m a fan of is starting Kevin Correia).

At 2:10 PM, the Milwaukee Brewers will play the Cincinnati Reds in a game that will feature an interesting matchup of good young pitchers in Yovani Gallardo and Edinson Volquez. At 4:10, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim take on the Kansas City Royals, with Jered Weaver facing Luke Hochevar.

At 4:15 PM, the San Diego Padres send Tim Stauffer (really? Tim Stauffer?) to face Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals (ESPN). And at 8:00, the Giants host the Dodgers in an awesome matchup between Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw.

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MLB Opening Day: Pittsburgh Pirates Roster

The Pirates have demoted reliever Chris Leroux, who appears to be their last cut of Spring Training. That means their 25-man roster is set, and here it is.

CATCHERS

Ryan Doumit
Jason Jaramillo

INFIELDERS

Lyle Overbay
Neil Walker
Ronny Cedeno
Pedro Alvarez
Steve Pearce
Josh Rodriguez

OUTFIELDERS

Jose Tabata
Andrew McCutchen
Garrett Jones
Matt Diaz
John Bowker

STARTING PITCHERS

Kevin Correia
Paul Maholm
Ross Ohlendorf
Charlie Morton
James McDonald

RELIEVERS

Joel Hanrahan
Evan Meek
Chris Resop
Jose Veras
Jeff Karstens
Garrett Olson
Mike Crotta

Note that regular catcher Chris Snyder will begin the year on the disabled list; when he returns, Jaramillo will likely be sent down. Pitchers Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel, who had been assumed to have roster spots as well, are also on the disabled list. Also, it’s unclear at this time whether McDonald, who has a side injury, will be able to make his first scheduled start.

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MLB Opening Day: Pittsburgh Pirates Schedule

The Pirates' first regular-season game of the 2011 season will take place on Friday, April 1. Here's a look at the Bucs' first week or so of games.

The Bucs' first series will be against the Cubs at Wrigley Field:

Friday, April 1, 2:20 PM. Kevin Correia vs. Ryan Dempster

Saturday, April 2, 1;05 PM. Paul Maholm vs. Carlos Zambrano

Sunday, April 3, 2:20 PM. Ross Ohlendorf vs. Matt Garza

The Pirates' starting pitching will obviously be outmatched in this first series, and there aren't many constructive things I can say about the decision to use Correia on Opening Day, except that James McDonald is hurt, Charlie Morton is an enigma, and you can't start the guy who went 1-11 last year (Ross Ohlendorf) unless you want a P.R. nightmare.

The Pirates will then travel to St. Louis.

Monday, April 4, 8:15 PM. Pirates pitcher: Charlie Morton

Tuesday, April 5, 8:15 PM. Pirates pitcher: James McDonald (assuming he's healthy by then - he's dealing with a side injury now)

Wednesday, April 6, 1:45 PM. Pirates pitcher: Kevin Correia

That brings us to the home opener, which will be April 7 at 1:35 PM against the Colorado Rockies. Paul Maholm will start.

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