For a few innings, it looked like Gregory Polanco’s big league debut was going to be a night to remember. In his second at-bat, he kept his hands back and made a nice swing on a pitch on the outside part of the plate and laced it into left field for a solid single. Andrew McCutchen followed that up with a big home run to center field to tie the game at two. Francisco Liriano seemed like he was settling in, and everything felt festive.
In the next half-inning, Liriano suddenly started grabbing his side and left the game. Jeanmar Gomez came in and promptly gave up a run. The Pirates got it back, but the downhill slide had started. Casey Sadler relieved Gomez after an inning and looked OK until getting into a ton of one-out trouble in the sixth, giving up two runs. In the seventh, Polanco misplayed what should’ve been an easy flyout to end the inning and as a result, the Cubs got two more runs. The Pirates tried to rally a few times, but they never really got anything going. Polanco ended up 1-for-5 with a run scored and a not-quite-an-error-due-to-the-vagaries-of-big-league-scoring.
I really liked Polanco’s one hit; I think he’s going to be pitched away until he proves he can hit pitches on that part of the plate, and his single resulted from a really nice swing. The play on Rizzo’s “double,” well, we’d all been told ahead of time that his route-running in right field wasn’t very good and that his defense in general needed work, and, well, we’ve got proof now. One game is just one game, and it’s hard to get too worked up over it. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on for players during their debuts, and the chance that Polanco would be a little rough around the edges certainly existed. Obviously he’s got time to smooth those edges out.
Liriano is the real concern here; there’s not a lot of news on his injury other than “left side,” but it looked painful and oblique injuries aren’t great for pitchers that create a lot of torque on the mound. Having an uneven Liriano has been difficult on the Pirates. Having no Liriano at all would be an outright disaster.
Having a rough debut for Polanco was no fun, but losing Liriano and losing to Wood with Hammel and Samardzija waiting is much, much worse. As excited as I was a few hours ago, I’ve got a sense of imending doom looming right now.