This is somewhat late and won't have much substance to it because, well, it's late and I am tired and I just wanted to make sure to touch on a few things from the game today. It was actually a pretty awesome game and I was lucky enough to be able to go to my first opening day in about six years so taking in everything was really what I did for much of the day.
The pregame ceremony was pretty awesome. You can tell the crowd was geeked up for it. Jim Leyland got a huge roar from the crowd as he was the first to be announced before giving Clint Hurdle his NL Manager of the Year award. Jack Wilson was decked out in a suit and was bald as ever before awarding Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez with their Silver Slugger awards but the real test came after. Dick Groat got a huge ovation and he was followed by Barry Bonds. I wasn't really sure how this was going to go. In my opinion a big majority of people don't much care for Bonds for various reasons and while that is either right or wrong on opening day people like to drink a little more than usual so I was bracing for a 30/70 split in terms of cheers/boos. I was pleasantly surprised as I thought it was about 50/50 and was a much more warm reception than I was anticipating. I thought overall the awards stuff was great. The Pirates did a great job putting videos together for them and it was a really nice way to award those guys for great years last year. I got chills the entire time.
As for the game itself it was actually a pretty good game. There wasn't a lot of offense but it was a great pitchers dual between Francisco Liriano and Jeff Samardzija. Liriano actually came out of the gate pretty slow but bounced back and threw six good innings while striking out 10 and walking three. He pitched out of some jams and was probably a little better than most expected today. Samardzija was really outstanding. He went seven innings and threw only 89 pitches. He kept the Pirates off balance and even when they did have some guys on base he was able to get out of it. He has always pitched well against the Pirates and today was no different. Luckily Liriano was good on the other side.
The obvious big play in the game was the Neil Walker walk-off but I think what really won the Pirates the game today was the bullpen. They threw four perfect innings thanks to Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, and Bryan Morris and despite a few bumps you never really felt like the Cubs had much of a chance. All told the bullpen gave up two hits and walked one in the four innings of work and you really can't ask for much more than that. I thought it was good to see that Grilli was getting his fastball back up into the mid-90s after we heard that he wasn't throwing overly hard in spring training so I am glad to see he is back with the velocity.
I haven't been what you would call a huge fan of Walker but I don't think I have been overly critical of him. I think he is a perfectly good player, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing wrong with that but I think the vibe of Walker is really one extreme or the other. Today Walker got a change-up that was up in the zone and got a good swing on it. Walker has always had the ability to hit the ball out of the park he just hasn't always been able to have it. He's pretty streaky but is a pretty good hitter from the left side of the plate. He was from the left side of the plate and destroyed a mistake. Exactly what you need in a 0-0 game in the 10th inning.
Travis Ishikawa had two hits in three at-bats today. I have no idea. I don't think he's going to be very good and this is only one game but I will take it.
Before I let this go I must say that it was nice to be at the game today and it really seemed like it was just the typical "opening day" crowd. Everyone seemed to be pretty into the game and I got the feel this wasn't people coming to the game hoping this year was different. Things changed last season in terms of what to expect and what this team is capable of. Even though the team might not have got much better from last year on paper this is going to be a really fun team to watch all season and I got the sense everyone is excited for the season.
Pittsburgh is a baseball town again. Really a great thing to say and read.