Pirates Vs. Cubs, 1 April 2011: Opening Day

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I feel like I should have something to say about what kind of team this is going to be, but I also feel like you all are well beyond that sort of thing. We've already debated the Pirates' offseason signings at great length and done community projections of most of the key players. We already know who's on the roster. There's pretty widespread agreement, I think, that this team will win about 62-72 games, maybe ranging up to 75 or so if we're very lucky. It isn't a pretty picture, so I'd rather not use this excuse to zoom out when I don't have to.

Nonetheless, it's still baseball, and I'm still excited to get this started and to have the weird thrill of the Pirates playing games that count. I recently moved to a new apartment, and the cable technician is coming in the morning to hook me up - I never turn on the TV for anything but sports, but I'm going to be glued to it this afternoon.

After having moved back east from California in September, I can't wait for the Winter to be over, and the presence of baseball is a beautiful reminder that warm weather is on the way. I'm excited to see how Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, James McDonald, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and Chris Resop will develop this year, and I'm interested in how John Bowker, Steve Pearce, Josh Rodriguez and Mike Crotta perform in more minor roles. I can't wait to see how Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia perform in their first professional seasons, or to see guys like Rudy Owens and possibly Tony Sanchez make their Pirates debuts.

So bring on the Cubs! I'll be back in the morning, and will be around throughout the day (assuming the cable connection goes well; if it doesn't, I'll be at the bar) writing about the game here and at SB Nation Pittsburgh. Watch this thread for updates.

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

UPDATE 1:03 PM: I answered a few questions about the Pirates for Bleed Cubbie Blue, and Al Yellon posted those in the gamethread over there. That's a great place to see what Cubs fans are thinking (while, you know, being nice). Also, I missed this last night, but it looks like James McDonald will be ready for his first start, which is excellent news.

UPDATE 2:30 PM: The Pirates go down in the first as Castro makes a nice play to nail Tabata on a grounder and Neil Walker strikes out. McCutchen hits a double to the gap in left center, but unfortunately has Overbay hitting after him, and Overbay strikes out. Dempster looked a little wild, opening on a 3-0 count to Tabata, but pitched pretty well after that.

UPDATE 2:40 PM: Pretty ugly bottom half of the first for the Bucs. Correia is sitting at 87-89 MPH and looks very hittable. Alvarez let a hard-hit ball eat him up with one out, then airmailed a throw to first on the next batter. Overbay, trying to get the out at first, doesn't jump for it, and the Cubs grab their first run. 1-0. Then a walk to Pena.

UPDATE 2:57 PM: The top of the second inning was uneventful for the Bucs, but the bottom half of the inning went better for the Pirates than the bottom half of the first did. Darwin Barney managed an off-balance hit on a pitch by Correia that obviously confused him, and Doumit ended the inning by gunning down a runner at second. Also, the Root Sports radar gun shows Dempster's velocity only coming in at around 90 MPH, so Correia's velocity is probably not much to worry about. It's always a little unsettling to see a starting pitcher throw 86 MPH fastballs in the first inning, but hey, it's cold out there.

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