Josh Harrison homered on the first pitch the Pirates saw, Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart also homered, and Gerrit Cole pitched six terrific innings as the Bucs dodged a late-inning meltdown to beat the Tigers 5-4 Monday.
The game began well, with a strong first inning from Cole. Then Harrison came to the plate and belted Anibal Sanchez's first pitch, a middle-middle fastball, to center to put the Bucs up 1-0. I'm not sure whether to write that the moment was unbelievable or mundane. With Harrison, the former has become the latter. In any case, he got PNC Park off to a great start this season
The Pirates added another run in the third as Harrison singled, Gregory Polanco doubled and Andrew McCutchen brought home Harrison on a sacrifice fly. Meanwhile, Cole cruised through the early-middle innings, dominating the Tigers with excellent stuff and command despite some odd calls behind the plate, most of which didn't go his way. The Tigers finally got to Cole in the seventh, loading the bases with no outs, but Jared Hughes relieved him and did what he does, inducing a ground ball double play (and then a pop fly) to limit the Tigers to a single run.
The Bucs' offense then got to work in the bottom of the inning. Alvarez led off with his third homer of the season, and then, after a single and a sacrifice, Hart hit his first-ever Pirates homer.
Those runs turned out to be very important because, after a terrific eighth inning from Tony Watson, Mark Melancon entered for the ninth (in a 5-1 game, because I don't know why) and promptly gave up doubles to Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera and then a two-run homer to J.D. Martinez (on a pitch that wasn't bad, to be fair). The Pirates' lead was just 5-4 at that point, and Melancon put on the tying run when Yoenis Cespedes singled. Melancon recovered with a ground ball and a strikeout to finally end the game.
If you were one of the people freaking out about the Pirates' bullpen after the first few games, this one probably didn't soothe you, but it was a terrific home opener nonetheless, and it's been great to see the Pirates' offense looking so lively in these past couple days. The Bucs can return to .500 with a win tomorrow.