“Return of the Kang, It is. Return of the Kang. Here I come. Return of the Kang. Oh my God. You know that I’ll be back. Here I am!” That is how you effectively work a Mark Morrison song into a baseball article, ladies and gentlemen! That also is the point that Jung Ho Kang made last night after blasting two home runs that secured a Pirates victory.
Kang’s return was well anticipated in the ‘Burgh, and last night he provided a major spark in the offense that has been missing. After going 0-2 in his first at bats, Jung Ho’s final two at bats ended with a pair of homers and provided the ‘fatality’ to lock down game 1 of this 3 game series.
Francisco Liriano started the game for the Bucco’s and was once again on fire. He lasted 7 innings while striking out 10 batters. Though he did allow two earned runs, they both were able to score due to a wild pitch that was thrown by Frankie. On that pitch, Randal Grichuk was able to score from second, while Aledmys Diaz advanced to third. This also setup the sacrifice fly by Ruben Tejada to then score Diaz in the same at bat. Had that wild pitch never happened, you can easily say the Red Birds would have never score in this game.
Carlos Martinez started off the game, but was removed in the 4th innings with bases loaded. Later it was announced that it was just arm fatigue, though it really did not look too good. Without trying to elude to speculation, Garret Richards was removed from his Sunday start due to ‘arm fatigue’ as well, and now he is preparing to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. It would be a huge loss if Martinez is out for any extended period of time. The 2016 has been plagued with injuries, and of the aging players it would seem like the magic pixie dust may be running dry.
The offense was average tonight when you take away the bat that Kang brought. Polanco started his first game this year in the three hole and did a fine job. Polanco would draw a lead off walk in the top of the 4th inning, and then ripped a lead off single in the top of the 6th. He finished the day 1/3 with a walk.
Starling Marte provided some early excitement and humor in the game. While nabbing a lead off single of his own in the 2nd, he faked a steal of second twice. This got catcher, Yadier Molina jawing a bit at the speedster with a smile. On the third pitch, Marte did actually take off and was able to beat the Molina throw for his eighth stolen base of the season. Molina would again laugh and Marte would respectfully laugh back and show Molina a fist pump. Marte would later score that inning with a Josh Harrison broken bat RBI single that came with 2 outs.
After Liriano dominated his start, the relievers would do their thing and secure the victory. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon both pitched an inning and each allowed just one hit while striking out one.