Pirates line up for National Anthem before 2013 Home Opener at PNC Park.
There weren't many bright spots for the Pirates today in their Home Opener, one thing that you could have been happy about was the start that AJ Burnett made. Burnett went 5.2 innings with 10 Ks, 3 ER, 6 hits one walk and a broken rosin bag. If it wasn't for an early home run by Anthony Rizzo, the game may have gone a different way. Burnett fell behind most of the hitters which led to a high pitch count despite walking only one. The defensive behind him was average, GI Jones did not play a good right field today, miss playing a ball off the wall and getting a late jump on a catchable gap shot. Both big hits would have probably been base knocks either way, but Jones could have limited the damage which may have changed the outcome of the game. The offense struggled behind AJ as well. Bucs didn't plate a run until desperation time in the bottom of the ninth. Cutch, Walker and others were able to grab a couple base hits and the Pirates were able to get some guys on base after an error and a mis played ball in the 2nd but were not able to capitalize.
Former Notre Dame standout receiver/ tight end, Jeff Smardzija dominated for most of the game, holding the Pirates to only one hit and maintaing a low pitch count until his exit in the 9th. The Pirates had a few chances, small chances but they didn't seem to try and really make the most out of them, not sending Cutch in two steal opportunities and allowing the bottom of the order to constantly come up in a big situation. Alvarez looked just as he has ever since he has been a big leaguer, getting behind in the count during bad at bats and not being able to get on when the Bucs need him the most.
Some things I have to question about today was the play of Jones in right field and McDonald coming into the game late. Jones only played OF in Spring Training once maybe twice, giving him limited experience out there. What does Hurdle do...START HIM IN RIGHT FIELD. It didn't take a baseball guru today to see that Jones was uncomfortable out there. He let a ball bounce off the wall that with his height and the time he had could have caught or kept from being a triple. Then on a gap shot that most MLB outfielders would have gotten to, Jones got a late jump allowing it to fall for a double. I think it's time for the Pirates to give up on Gaby Sanchez, a guy late in his career who has yet to prove he should be starting in anyones lineup. He is a defensive liability at first where Jones should be, there has never been a problem when GI is at first base. Sanchez did not today and did not last year provide any production at the plate, so why not put your marbles into Travis Snider is you're the Pirates. A guy that the Blue Jays loved, and you traded for, in the prime of his young career with as much upside as anyone. He can go out and play an above average OF, mostly in right while Jones moves back into his comfort zone at first.
Finally, John McDonald, one of the most useless pickups the Pirates have ever made. Brought in as a guy that is supposed to be as good a defender as Barmes, he entered the game today and had one ball hit to him, an E6. Now if he isn't adding anything at the plate and showed today he couldn't field, what is the point in playing him. Josh Harrison seems to be a much better option, providing the speed and versatility and offensive ability better than Barmes or McDonald.
It's early, the first game, Home Opener for the Bucs...so no need to panic yet. But like all sports fans, it's tough for me to watch our team drop the first game of the year, just puts you in a damp mood, especially with some of the miscues by Pirates players and coaches today. Luckily, theres 161 games left and still time for the Pirates to compete.