Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pitcher's RBI lifts Pirates in opener

Francisco Liriano strikes out 10 in six innings and delivers an RBI single for the Pirates.

Getty Images

Francisco Liriano strikes out 10 in six innings and delivers an RBI single for the Pirates.

PITTSBURGH — Clint Hurdle spent spring training tinkering with the Pirates' lineup and preaching the importance of selflessness. Of moving runners over. Of being patient at the plate and aggressive on the bases.

The message found an unlikely landing spot in pitcher Francisco Liriano.

The veteran tied a Pirates opening day record by striking out 10 and singled home the first run of the 2016 major-league season for good measure, sending Pittsburgh past the Cardinals 4-1 Sunday.

It was 39 degrees when Liriano threw the first pitch of the year at sunny but frosty PNC Park. He allowed three hits and walked five in six shutout innings. His RBI hit in the second came off St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright.

"Just trying to take good at-bats and put the ball in play," Liriano said.

A refrain his manager repeated over and over during the offseason after Pittsburgh traded second baseman Neil Walker and cut first baseman Pedro Alvarez, an exodus of power the Pirates knew they couldn't replace. So instead Hurdle got creative, placing former Ray John Jaso atop the order and bumping Andrew McCutchen from third to second and emphasizing the need to take smart chances to generate offense.

"You need to be able to perform in the box and execute," Hurdle said. "You know there's some at-bats to sacrifice."

Yet Hurdle let Liriano — a career .121 hitter — swing away in the second with runners at the corners and one out, resulting in a crisp single to left that gave Pittsburgh a lead it would not relinquish in the meeting of the teams with the majors' best records since the start of 2013.

"We know he's a wild card when you send him up there," Hurdle said. "Thought, 'Let him take a couple whacks at it and see what will happen.' "

David Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP for the Cardinals, had two hits against his former club in his debut with Pittsburgh. Liriano was pretty good on the mound, too, wriggling out of jams in the third, fourth and sixth while tying the club's opening day mark for strikeouts set by John Candelaria in 1983 and matched by Liriano in 2014.

"When he has swing and miss stuff, he's pretty good," Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer said.

Pirates 4

Cardinals 1

Pitcher's RBI lifts Pirates in opener 04/03/16 [Last modified: Sunday, April 3, 2016 10:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.