In the first inning, the Pirates fell behind 2-0 (that's becoming a familiar pattern) when Wandy Rodriguez allowed a double to Aaron Hill and a homer by the lefty Jason Kubel.
The Bucs came back for three of their own in the second when Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker and Michael McKenry hit consecutive singles to lead off the game. Sanchez came home on the McKenry single, and then both runners moved up on Travis Snider's groundout. Jordy Mercer brought a runner home with a sacrifice fly. Starling Marte then brought McKenry home with a single.
The score stayed at 3-2 until the sixth, when Chris Johnson singled and Rodriguez hung a breaking ball for Wil Nieves, who blasted it just over the left-field wall.
Jared Hughes replaced Rodriguez in the seventh and gave up a single to Stephen Drew and a homer to center by Kubel, his second blast of the game. Hughes also gave up a double to Justin Upton (on a pretty good pitch, to be fair) before being replaced by Jeff Locke, who made his 2012 debut. Locke pitched 2.1 perfect innings and generally looked very good, keeping his pitches down and locating much better than he did last season. Unfortunately, by the time he entered, it was already 6-3, and the damage was already done.
Marte tripled with two outs in the seventh, but got stranded when Josh Harrison popped out. The Pirates went down quickly in the eighth and ninth, with Clint Hurdle making the dubious decision to have Clint Barmes pinch-hit to lead off the ninth. (He struck out while flailing at a pitch outside the zone, shockingly.)
I'll say this, though -- Rodriguez wasn't very good, and the problems the bullpen has had recently are worrisome, but this team is much better-prepared and fun to watch even in defeat than they were last year, or really any time in recent memory. It's nice to see Jeff Locke come up and pretty clearly pitch much better than he did last year, and Starling Marte's at-bats are still must-see TV, two weeks after his promotion. He didn't manage to score in the seventh, but he ran like crazy the whole way to get to third. Earlier this week, I said on Trib Live Radio that Marte reminded me a little of Bryce Harper. Marte is older and isn't nearly the talent Harper is, but in any given game, both players are a good bet to play hard and do something exciting, even though they both still run the risk of making mistakes.