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. Bucs' O.J. Howard ends big day with BP, first pitch for Rays

    Blogs

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard is known for his athleticism at 6-foot-6, 251-pounds. As an outfielder, he took his Autuaga Academy High School baseball team to the state tournament in Alabama as a junior.

    On Monday, after a little instruction from Steven Souza, Jr., the left-handed hitting Howard started making …

  2. Arm problems in the past, USF rides pitching into AAC baseball tournament

    College

    TAMPA — By his second relief inning in last year's season opener, USF right-hander Ryan Valdes had lost the fizz on his fastball.

    USF senior right-hander Ryan Valdes, an Alonso High alumnus, is one of three prominent Bulls pitchers flourishing after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. [USF Athletics]
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes Bucs weapons, believes he's a good fit

    Blogs

    Ryan Fitzpatrick’s experience playing for six other NFL teams is what made him attractive to the Bucs as a backup to starter Jameis Winston. But if he has to play, the former Jets quarterback is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Angels and Trout, with Odorizzi on mound

    Blogs

    After losing Sunday's game but winning a third straight series, the Rays open a four-game series tonight against the Angels and Mike Trout.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, RHP J.C. Ramirez for the Angels.

    Evan Longoria is getting a DH day, so the Rays have rookie Daniel …

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.
  5. Lightning's Swedes live their dream in Worlds

    Blogs

    You could see it in his face.

    Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman screamed as he hoisted the World Championship trophy Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany, and it looked like an exhale that was years in the making. Stralman kissed the forehead of Swedish teammate Joel Lundqvist, the joy unmistakable.

    Victor Hedman of Sweden celebrate with his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the gold-medal game against Canada.