Opening Day: Strikeouts! And losing. Pirates fall, 3-1

Justin K. Aller

As tempting as it is to draw conclusions from Opening Day games, you just can't. It's one game, and it isn't really any more important than the other 161 -- it just feels that way.

Nonetheless, it's hard to shake the feeling that this afternoon's game started April 2012 all over again. You remember -- the pitching does well, but not quite well enough to compensate for the mind-bogglingly poor hitting. This year's team should hit a bit better than last year's and pitch a bit worse -- that was what I thought going in, and I'm sticking with it. But man, when you're watching Travis Snider look like a narcoleptic grandmother against Jeff Samardzija, you've got to check yourself before your imagination starts taking you to some dark places.

A.J. Burnett was mostly excellent, but he allowed a single to Starlin Castro in the first, then left a fastball up for Anthony Rizzo, who hit a no-doubter to right-center to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Welington Castillo also hit an RBI double in the sixth to give the Cubs a three-run cushion. Nonetheless, Burnett finished with 10 strikeouts in 5.2 innings, and got a nice ovation from the PNC crowd when he exited. Justin Wilson, Jared Hughes and Mark Melancon then came on and whiffed five hitters in 3.2 innings of their own.

The Pirates and Cubs combined for a remarkable 25 strikeouts, and somehow, Pirates batters only had 10 of those. (Some inconsistent ball and strike calls padded the home run total.) Unfortunately, the Bucs couldn't get anything at all going offensively until the ninth. Samardzija allowed just two hits over eight innings, and the Bucs had to wait for a characteristically erratic outing by Carlos Marmol to rally. Marmol hit McCutchen with a pitch with one out. McCutchen then stole second for some reason, even though the Bucs were down 3-0, and came home on a Pedro Alvarez single. Gaby Sanchez walked to bring the winning run to the plate, but the Pirates couldn't muster any more offense. And that was it. Three hits.

Some other notes:

-P- Travis Snider had one at-bat, during which it became perfectly clear that he had never, ever seen a 93-MPH fastball before. If he ever has, then I can't explain it.

-P- I missed the first few innings of the game because of work, but it certainly seemed like Russell Martin played well behind the plate. He made a key block early in the game, then did a nice job catching Castillo in a rundown later.

-P- Defensive specialist John McDonald entered in the ninth and promptly botched a throw to first.

-P- Andrew McCutchen was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Pirate who had a good game at the plate -- in addition to his HBP, he also had a double down the line.

-P- Jeff Samardzija has the worst hair in baseball, so in that sense, the Pirates are the true winners. Now, I know you're going to say that hair doesn't count in the standings, but as we all know, "standings" are tyrannical.

-P- Oh, and there was this, which was worth the price of admission all by itself.

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