To some extent, you have to chalk part of what happened today up to cold weather and a rather weak Cubs lineup, but Wandy Rodriguez's 2013 debut was tremendous. He struck out six batters in 6.2 innings, threw a bunch of glorious curveballs, and only allowed two hits.
The Pirates initially looked like they wouldn't do anything against Edwin Jackson, but they got to him in the fourth, with a single by Garrett Jones, a double by Andrew McCutchen, a groundout, and an error by Starlin Castro, giving them a 2-0 lead.
Clint Hurdle's decisions in the seventh inning threatened to wave Wandy away, however. Rodriguez hit Anthony Rizzo, then allowed a single to Alfonso Soriano. After striking out Scott Hairston, Rodriguez hit another batter, Welington Castillo, to load the bases. Rodriguez was approaching 100 pitches then, and was pitching in his first start of the year. I have no idea why Hurdle let him face Brent Lillibridge, but he did, and Rodriguez and Lillibridge engaged in an agonizing 10-pitch duel that, fortunately, ended with a strikeout.
Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, Hurdle called on ... Tony Watson, whose problems this spring almost cost him a spot on the active roster. Against a righty, Alberto Gonzalez. (And yes, I know Watson has good numbers in a small sample against righties for his career, but come on. The entire 'pen was available.) Watson missed on his first three pitches against Alberto Gonzalez. It was torture. But, three pitches later, Watson got a fly ball for the third out.
Hey, that's okay, I guess -- no harm, no foul. But Hurdle wasn't done. In the bottom of the inning, Clint Barmes led off with a solid double down the line (!). And then Hurdle actually left Watson in the game to bunt -- which also worked. And sure enough, Starling Marte singled on a grounder to left, and Barmes came home to score. Hurdle (or Marte) still wasn't done, as Marte got thrown out stealing second. Oh well, no problem. The Pirates were up 3-0 at that point, which on a cold night like tonight qualified as a big, big lead. Hurdle's antics didn't hurt the Pirates tonight, but if this is any indication, close games this year are going to be hard to watch. Anyway, Watson stayed on in the eighth, and Jason Grilli took care of business with an excellent 1-2-3 ninth.
It's a shame, really, that Hurdle's decisions became the take-away for me tonight. It was the Pirates' first win of the season, and Rodriguez really did play very well. If Rodriguez can be a steady presence in the Pirates' rotation, that's a big deal, because of the uncertainty involved in the back three spots.