Jack Flaherty threw a 94 mph fastball straight down the middle to Kevin Newman and the Pittsburgh Pirates 2020 season was underway. Flaherty went on to retire the first nine Buccos in a row before giving up a lead of single to Newman in the bottom of the 4th. He looked in mid-season form; painting the corners, getting players to chase pitches out of zone and allowing mostly soft contact from the Pirates batters.
For the Pirates, Joe Musgrove took the mound in the bottom of the 1st and sat down the Cardinals in order. This wasn’t a huge surprise as the big right hander had a team high 65 1-2-3 innings last year. Musgrove got through the first two innings pretty smoothly, striking out a couple of batters along the way. In the bottom of the third the Red Birds struck first as Tyler O’Neil muscled the ball over the left field for a solo home run. Jacob Stallings would bring an end to the inning with a great throw to get get Tommy Edman trying to steal second after he had reached on an infield hit due to a double clutch by Kevin Newman.
Dexter Fowler took Musgrove deep to lead off the bottom of the 5th as his fastball hung on and caught a little bit to much of the plate; putting the Cardinals up 2-0. Musgrove helped out his own cause with some good old fashioned hustle and a strong throw to Stallings to get Kolten Wong trying to score as the throw to third bounced off Colin Moran’s glove; stopping the Cardinals from getting any more runs on the board that inning.
After making it through another 5 batters and compiling a total of 99 pitches, Musgrove gave way to Clay Holmes with runners on first and third. Holmes immediately gave up a single to Yadier Molina, scoring Paul Goldschmidt to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. In 5 2/3 inning Big Joe’s night ended with a line of 3 earned runs (the last allowed on the Molina single off of Holmes), 7 strikeouts, 3 walks and 5 total hits; including the two solo home runs.
Meanwhile Flaherty started to struggle a little bit in the 7th; giving up an infield hit, legged out by Josh Bell, followed by a base knock by Colin Moran and then a hit by Jose Osuna off the glove of Tommy Edman. With the bases loaded Guillermo Heredia was caught looking for called third strike, but Flaherty would not get out of this jam as Stallings brought in two with a single passed the diving 1st Basemen Goldschmidt. As the Cardinals came up in the bottom of the 7th, our Buccos still trailed by a count of 3-2.
Flaherty ended up being pulled after the 7th inning. In total he struck 6 Pirates batters, walked none and gave up 2 runs on 6 hits. Other than the last inning he pitched Flaherty looked just as impressive as he had last year when he posted a 2.75 ERA and a .97 WHIP with 231 strikeouts in 196.1 innings.
The Cardinals got both runs back in the bottom of the 8th as Paul DeJong took a Richard Rodriguez fastball over the right field fence. Rodriguez gave up a career high 14 homers last season, which was 5 more than had given up the previous two years combined. Pirates were unable to mount a full comeback in spite of a two run single by Jose Osuna in the top of the 9th, which brought the Pirates to within one at 5-4. Sadly, the Buccos late inning heroics fell just short.
Overall the Pirates performed fairly well in the season opener, but were ultimately taken down thanks in part to the 3 home runs from the Cardinals offense. Musgrove looked sharp at times during his seven strike outs, but was tagged twice in two mistakes. The Pirates bullpen faltered, which is unfortunate as it had been predicted by many. It was however nice to see timely hits by Stallings and Osuna, as well as a two hit night from Colin Moran.
The Pirates and the Cardinals get to do it all again tomorrow at 2:15 PM EST as Trevor Williams takes the mound to face off against the timeless one Adam Wainwright.