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Pirates Defeat Dodgers on Opening Day

This was a great day for the Pirates, who scored eleven runs on the strength of two homers by superman Garrett Jones and a three-run shot by Ryan Doumit.

The Dodgers scored two runs in the first on a two-run single by Matt Kemp, who hit a hard grounder a few feet to the left of Andy LaRoche. I'm not sure whether LaRoche could have gotten to it or not, but my immediate thought was, "Welcome to your season, Zach"--he's going to have a lot of narrowly missed grounders behind him this year. (In the next inning, Blake Dewitt hit a ball weakly, and it ended up just getting by Ronny Cedeno; at least Dewitt didn't score.)

The Pirates got on the board in the bottom of the first with a walk by Akinori Iwamura, and then Garrett Jones followed up with a glorious homer on a fastball high and inside--it ended up in the river after clearing the wall in right. I'm going to suspend my disbelief about Jones, at least for a while. He deserves it.

In the bottom of the second, the Pirates managed to load the bases with no outs, but Cedeno hit into a home-to-first double play with a weak grounder back to Vicente Padilla. Iwamura also made an out, and the Pirates didn't score. In the third, though, Jones homered again--this one was much shorter than the first one, just clearing the short wall in left. 

Padilla hit Andrew McCutchen to start the fifth, for which I thanked him for putting a runner on with Jones on deck. Jones didn't homer this time, though, only moving McCutchen to third with a grounder after McCutchen stole second. Ryan Doumit walked, and then Lastings Milledge then brought home McCutchen home with a long double to right. Padilla intentionally walked Jeff Clement, and then the Dodgers brought in Ramon Ortiz, who got Andy LaRoche to pop up but allowed a bases-clearing double by pinch-hitter Ryan Church, and then a Texas League RBI single by Ronny Cedeno, after which the Bucs were up 8-2.

Zach Duke got through five innings, but his velocity was exceedingly weak--most of his fastballs were coming in at 86 or 87 MPH. Some of them were as slow as 85 MPH, making them hard to distinguish from changeups. His average fastball last year was around 89 MPH, and certainly a lefty with smarts and control and get away with something less than top-notch velocity, but Duke really might be pushing the limits of what he needs to get by.

Jack Taschner made his first official appearance as a Pirate in relief of Duke, and he immediately struck out James Loney. He allowed a single to the next batter, but then got a fly ball and was removed with two outs. I'm interested in seeing where this goes--every statistical indicator says Taschner is going to be mediocre, but he is supposed to have moved his arm angle down to three quarters this offseason. That might actually work for him--his velocity is mediocre (most of his fastballs today were coming in at around 88 MPH), but the arm angle makes his pitches look faster than they are. D.J. Carrasco came on with two outs in the sixth and Ronnie Belliard hit a hard liner to right, but Jones made another good catch, his second of the day after making a sliding grab in the first.

Carrasco got a little wild with a walk and an HBP to start the seventh, and Manny Ramirez brought home both runners with a single up the middle. Evan Meek came on in relief of Carrasco--with an off day tomorrow, John Russell probably didn't worry much about using all his pitchers. Matt Kemp then hit a long double that almost went off the wall in right. (Jones might have caught it, but he always seems to have problems fielding balls at the wall--even gods have weaknesses, I guess.) A Loney groundout brought Ramirez home, making the score 8-5, but Meek got Casey Blake to pop out to end the inning. Brendan Donnelly pitched a dramatic eighth inning, allowing two singles and then an Andre Ethier line drive that narrowly missed the right field line, but no runs scored.

With George Sherrill pitching and two outs in the eighth, McCutchen hit a 400-foot double off the wall in center. Jones followed that with a walk. Ryan Doumit followed up with a very long homer to left to give the Bucs an 11-5 lead that Octavio Dotel had no trouble protecting.

Before we get too excited about the Pirates' hitting performance today, we'd do well to keep in mind that the Dodgers' pitchers included Vicente Padilla, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Jeff Weaver and a Rule 5 pick. How a big-budget team like the Dodgers sends all these retreads out there on Opening Day is beyond me. How they have all of them on their 25-man roster to start the year is beyond me, and it speaks poorly of Ned Colletti's ability to build a team. Even given their uncertain financial situation, they can be a lot more creative than this. It's true that Weaver had his first okay year since ever last season. And I know Padilla pitched pretty well after joining the Dodgers last year (although that was 40 innings, and the 400 frames that precede them say he's bad). But still. We can joke about how the Pirates always struggle about terrible pitchers, but more seriously, if I were a Dodgers fan I'd be pretty annoyed.

Still, though! Good day.

A couple of quick notes:

-P- In case you didn't hear, Brandon Moss cleared waivers and will head to Indianapolis. It's nice that he'll still be in the organization. 

-P- Also, I answered some questions about the Pirates over at True Blue LA.