If you thought Opening Day was fun, this game might have been that much better. Anytime you can walk off on the Cardinals, it’s a good day. Jordy Mercer‘s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th scored Gregory Polanco to give the Pirates their second consecutive victory over the Cardinals to start the season.
The Pirates chased the Cardinals all last season and never caught them, but they’re already two games ahead of them in 2016.
This game started out with a scoreless inning and a half before the fireworks began. It was a back-and-forth game for the next four innings. Polanco started the scoring with an RBI triple off the Clemente Wall to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead. Fresh off his extension, Polanco sure has hit some laser beams through two games this season. JHay scored Polanco next on an RBI ground out for a 2-0 lead.
This is where things went array for Jon Niese, who was making his Pirates debut. After a single, sac bunt and a walk, Stephen Piscotty singled to left in what should have loaded the bases, but Starling Marte (not his best game in the field) overran the ball for an error, allowing the Cards to score a run. Matt Holliday grounded out next in what could have been a double play had the bases been loaded, but was an RBI ground out now to tie the game at two thanks to the error.
Andrew McCutchen, who was all over the basepaths tonight, didn’t let the game stay tied for long as he scorched a ball into the gap for an RBI double to score John Jaso to make it 3-2. The Cardinals responded in the very next half inning on a two-run home run by Jedd Gyorko. What a Gyorko. Niese didn’t get any help from the defense behind him in the top of the 5th inning when Holliday reached on a Mercer throwing error that scored Piscotty to make it 5-3. As we called on Twitter, Yinzer Nation was in an uproar saying that Niese sucks and the Pirates are the worst thing ever and Nutting is cheap. It was quite comical. Niese finished with 5.0 innings pitched, five hits, five runs (four earned) and seven strikeouts. J.A. Happ stunk in his Pirates debut last year too and turned out to be fantastic so let’s give it a couple starts before we walk the plank over Niese.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the 5th inning and scored a run on Cervelli’s fielder’s choice on an error by rookie SS Aledmys Diaz who was making his MLB debut. Polanco added a sac fly in the next AB to tie the game and that was the last run for a while.
The Cards and Pirates bullpen shut things down after that as the Bucs didn’t even have another base runner until the 11th inning when Polanco walked (he seemed to be making things happen all night), JHay singled on an infield hit that was reviewed by the Cards and upheld. With two runners on, Mercer singled down the right field line off Cards reliever Seth Maness to score Polanco and raise it for the second straight game.
Kyle Lobstein came in to pitch the extra innings for the Bucs and tossed two scoreless innings with one hit and three strikeouts as he struck out the side in the top of the 11th inning. He picked up the win tonight.
There was so much talk about starting fast this year and winning games against the division teams…well this season couldn’t have started any better than two wins against the hated Cardinals. The Pirates will go for the sweep Wednesday night with Juan Nicasio on the mound against former Reds pitcher Mike Leake.