The easiest and probably most accurate way to describe the Pirates' 3-1 loss to the Cubs on Opening Day at PNC Park is probably this: it was cold out and when it's cold out, hard-throwing pitchers seem to do well, and as a result AJ Burnett and Jeff Samardzija combined for 19 strikeouts between them in just 13 2/3 innings combined work.
Burnett was particularly awesome to watch today, setting ten Cubs down on strikes in his 5 2/3 innings. He gave up all three Cubs' runs, though; two of them came when Anthony Rizzo destroyed a mistake fastball in the first inning and one more came when Garrett Jones attempted poorly to play right field, letting a Wellington Castillo flyball drop for an RBI double on the warning track in right center. Other than that, Burnett was mostly unhittable. The bullpen behind him, which got called in for quite a bit of work due to Burnett needing 98 pitches to get through his 5 2/3 inning start in his quest to strike out All Of The Cubs, was also quite good. Justin Wilson whiffed two in 1 1/3 perfect innings, Jared Hughes recorded a strikeout in his perfect inning, and Mark Melancon struck out two in his hitless inning of work that was only prevented from being perfect by John McDonald's error.
It's always important to remember that while Opening Day is infinitely more important than spring training of meaningless exhibition games agains the Altoona Curve, it's also just one day and it's very easy to overemphasize a bad result. That means that you'd really need the Jump To Conclusions Matt to decide that getting three-hit by Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol, James Russell, and Kyuji Fujikawa is a sign that the Pirates' offense is back to the dismal state that it was in last April, no matter how terrible they looked against the floppy-haired Samardzija this afternoon. What I will say is that if you, like me, expect that good starts might be few and far between for the Pirates in the early part of 2013, then it's pretty disquieting to see them waste one right out of the gate. The Pirates really only even threatened twice in the entire game; once in the first inning when Starling Marte drew a leadoff walk and Garrett Jones reached on an error, then again in the ninth when Carlos Marmol was briefly allowed into the game and the Cubs seemed surprised to see him pitch like Carlos Marmol.
The best part about baseball is that you never have to wait long for another chance after a rough performance, but then the worst part about Opening Day is that it's often followed by a built-in off day to protect against rainouts and so that second chance won't come until Wednesday night.