There was a moment at the top of the left field bleachers this afternoon just after Jason Grilli shut the Cubs down in the top of the 9th: the score was tied at zero, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez were coming up, and PNC Park came to life. The fans stood up, and suddenly there were Jolly Roger flags waving all over PNC Park. I got chills right then; this is the PNC Park I’ve been waiting for since 2001. I missed the playoff run last year, and that exact moment was what I wanted to be back for today. I’ve seen home openers and exciting pitcher’s duels and walkoff home runs before, but Pittsburgh as a baseball town? That’s something special.
Anyway, since I was in the stands and a good five hours have passed I’m not sure I have a whole lot to add about the game. A few observations in bullet-point form:
- In the sixth inning, I thought that at least some of Francisco Liriano’s ten strikeouts were due to the Cubs’ hilariously swing-heavy lineup. Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, and Bryan Morris only struck one batter out between them, though, so maybe that wasn’t it.
- Grilli’s velocity looked fine, which was great to see since it seemed like he lost something after his injury last year.
- Mark Melancon gave up a leadoff double to Emilio Bonifacio, but no one was able to square him up after that. Also nice to see since he had that late-season hiccup last year.
- There were a couple of nice, solid defensive plays that bailed the Pirates out of trouble. The 1-5-3 double play in the fifth was one of them, and the rundown with Emilio Bonifacio at the plate in the eighth was another. These were not hugely difficult plays, but I was at the home opener where the field ended up covered in flags and seeing the Pirates convert important plays with a slight degree of difficult was a nice reminder that last year wasn’t a dream.
- Think about how stupid some aspects of baseball were without replay review. Without review, Bonifacio stays on first in the tenth without being picked off. If he scores and the Cubs end up winning last year, it would’ve actually been considered sour grapes to complain about the blown call costing the Pirates the game. This year? Clint Hurdle asks the umps to take a look at the play, they get the call right, and the game moves on.
- Neil Walker is going to be mentioned on every Opening Day at PNC Park for the rest of history.
Photo credit: Me! Because I was at the game!