For three innings, I was awfully worried about Wandy Rodriguez. His fastball didn’t seem to have much zip on it, and he wasn’t fooling the Cubs at all. The Cubs dinged him for a run in each of the first three innings, and even when they weren’t scoring, Jason Hammel was fouling off six pitches before finally swinging and missing one for a strikeout. As I wrote before the game, Rodriguez is an awfully important part of the Pirates’ rotation at this point in time, and seeing him off to that sort of start was an immediate red flag.
He finally settled down after giving up two straight hits to open the third inning, and he retired 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced. He even struck out five of those batters, generating a decent number of whiffs with his curve, two-seamer, and changeup. I’m still a bit worried about his velocity (you can see at the Brooks link that he didn’t crack 90 mph once and that his fastball averaged 88.4, which is down from last year), but his strong finish makes up for most of that. There’s not really any point fretting about early season results unless something really alarming happens, and that wasn’t the case with Rodriguez today.
That being said, the Pirates weren’t able to overcome his rough first three innings. Jason Hammel dominated the Pirates in his 6 2/3 innings, and the Bucs only managed to score on a two-run Tony Sanchez single in the seventh. They got runners on base in the eighth and ninth, but a combination of stupid bunting and bad luck made it such that they never really threatened to score.
In addition to Rodriguez improving as his outing went along, Edinson Volquez threw two innings of relief to spell the taxed bullpen after last night, and he looked awfully good. He only allowed one runner to reach base (on a single) and he threw 21 of his 28 pitches for strikes. His fastball had some nice velocity and he could put it pretty much where he wanted; 14 of the 15 fastballs/sinkers he threw went for strikes. Clint Hurdle said post-game that they were going to consider this an aggressive bullpen session and that he’ll still make his start against the Cardinals on Sunday.
All in all, it was a pretty frustrating game. The Pirates managed to take two of three from the Cubs without their bats ever really waking up, though, and so it’s hard to complain about starting the season off with a series like this. The Cardinals will be in PNC for the weekend; I’m already getting excited.