Before we start, let’s get this out of the way: It’s just one game. It’s just one game and the Dodgers pitched Vicente Padilla and Ramon and Russ Ortiz and Jeff Weaver. Functionally, this game means no more than an 11-5 win in late June after a 13-game losing streak and we all say something like, “Man, if we couldn’t have broken this streak against Vicente Padilla, it was never going to end.”
But that’s not what Opening Day is about; it’s about seeing an 11-5 win with two Garrett Jones homers and a right-handed Ryan Doumit blast and some nice bullpen work and a big pinch-hit and smiling to know that the Pirates will be on top of the division for at least one day this year. Conclusions can be drawn later. Remember that on this day last year, all we knew about Garrett Jones was that he was a huge guy that John Russell seemed to love, even though he only had two career homers. Today he hit two homers; a bomb that rolled into the river and an opposite field shot that just curled around the foul pole. Does it mean he’ll hit 40 homers this year? Or does Ryan Doumit’s homer mean that he’s back? Of course not, but it’s better to start here than from somewhere else.
In fact, everyone but Andy LaRoche and Akinori Iwamura had a hit today and since Iwamura drew a walk and LaRoche got hit by a pitch, every starter got on base at least once. It’s obvious to say, but the Pirates can’t rely on three homers and 11 runs on 10 hits every game; they’re going to have to string hits and base runners together. Six runs came on home runs today, but it was nice to see five that didn’t.
Three of those five came from Ryan Church’s pinch-hit, bases loaded double in the fifth inning. That was, I thought, one of the more telling moments of the game. One of my biggest criticisms about John Russell is that he sometimes seems to never know when to remove a pitcher from the game. Here, with the bases loaded, two outs, and a two-run lead he had the choice to leave Zach Duke in, though Duke had put eight guys on base (seven hits) with only one strikeout through five innings, or pinch hit for Duke. He gambled on the bullpen and it paid off for him. There are obviously a lot of huge question marks in this bullpen, but they all performed well over four innings today with the exception of DJ Carrasco. I’ll be interested to see how much trust Russell puts in his new bullpen over the next few weeks.
With an off-day tomorrow, we’ve got 48 hours to sit back and enjoy this game. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s what I plan on doing.