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Moran slam proves decisive as Pirates hang on for 5-4 win

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MLB: Minnesota Twins at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Moran launched his first career grand slam and first Pirates’ HR and the bullpen barely hung on as the Pirates stayed unbeaten with a 5-4 win over the Twins in their opener at PNC Park.

The Pirates jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first as Lance Lynn couldn’t find the plate. A leadoff walk to Josh Harrison and a double by Gregory Polanco put the Pirates on top. Two more walks eventually loaded the bases with two out. Moran then put a short, quick swing on a high fastball, depositing it well up into the right field stands to make it 5-0.

The Bucs’ offense was silent after that, managing only three more hits. They did pick up eight more walks for a total of 11, four of them to Polanco. A bunch of them came in the seventh and eighth innings, but the Pirates left the bases loaded both times thanks to the inability of their hitters to lay off pitches well out of the zone.

Fortunately, the five runs proved to be enough. Starter Jameson Taillon dominated for five innings, allowing just two hits, walking none and fanning eight. After he struck out Robbie Grossman to start the sixth, though, Taillon allowed a HR to Brian Dozier and a single to Joe Mauer. Clint Hurdle came out again with the quick hook, Taillon having thrown just 91 pitches, and the bullpen had yet another meltdown. Edgar Santana and Josh Smoker managed to allow doubles to three of the four hitters they faced, making the score 5-4. Dovydas Neverauskas had to get the last out.

The bullpen then muddled through scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. Neverauskas got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the seventh — created in part by a hit batsman resulting from a successful replay challenge — by getting Dozier to ground into a double play. Michael Feliz survived two walks in the eighth. With Felipe Rivero having saved two games yesterday, George Kontos came on for the ninth and finally gave the bullpen an easy inning. Even then, he was helped by a batter’s interference call that got him one out.

The Pirates lost shortstop Jordy Mercer during the game. Mercer came out with a jammed finger suffered when he dove back to first on a pickoff throw. The severity of the “discomfort” isn’t known as yet.

The win leaves the Pirates still unbeaten at 4-0. With Milwaukee losing to St. Louis, the Bucs are now alone in first place (except in the ESPN standings, where they don’t exist).