At long last, meaningful baseball is finally here. We’re treated to a trio of games to kick off the 2016 regular season, starting with Cardinals-Pirates at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano was in top form, both with the bat and with his arm. He helped his own cause, kicking off the scoring in the bottom of the second inning with a ground ball single to right field off of Adam Wainwright. On the mound, he was nearly unhittable, albeit a bit wild. The lefty walked five, but yielded only three hits while striking out 10 over six innings. According to August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs, Liriano is the first pitcher, dating back to 1913, to have such a line score. Last year, two pitchers struck out double-digit batters in their teams’ first game: Johnny Cueto and Felix Hernandez.
Along with Liriano’s single, Pirates first baseman John Jaso added an RBI single in the second inning. They made it 3-0 in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly to center field by Josh Harrison, which ended up being an interesting play. Gregory Polanco, who was on first base, tried to advance to second base, but was tagged out on a play that was reviewed and upheld on replay review. The Pirates tacked on a fourth run in the eighth on an RBI double by Jordy Mercer.
Wainwright, making his first start since April 25 last year, went six innings, allowing the three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts. The right-hander suffered a ruptured Achilles last season and returned at the end of September, making three relief appearances.
Cardinals reliever Seung-hwan Oh, making his first appearance in the majors, worked around two walks with two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh inning. The club inked him to a one-year deal for roughly $5 million in January.
For the Buccos, Tony Watson and Neftali Feliz pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth, respectively, in relief of Liriano. Closer Mark Melancon allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base to start the ninth inning in a non-save situation, but only one came around to score before the right-hander ended the game in a 4-1 victory for the Pirates.
The Blue Jays and Rays are just under way. The Mets will take on the Royals in a World Series rematch in a few hours. Baseball!