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Pirates Close, But Lose 5-4 on Opening Day

The Pirates lost their Opening Day game to the St. Louis Cardinals by a final of 5-4. However they fought hard to keep the game close. The bullpen was again a problem for the Bucs in the later innings. Joe Musgrove started for the Pirates and turned in a good performance..

The Early Innings

Musgrove took the hill in game-one of exhibition series against Cleveland. The Pittsburgh starter had a solid outing in the exhibition series, striking out five in three innings.

The Bucs went hitless in the first inning. St. Louis starter, Jack Flaherty was able to shut down Pittsburgh’s bats early on. Musgrove had the same success however, as both pitchers were able to have a quick first inning.

Flaherty again was able to keep the Bucs scoreless in the second inning. Flaherty struggled to get Jose Osuna as the final out, however, he finally got him ground out to short.

Musgrove struck out the first batter, Paul DeJong, in the bottom of the second, however, he walked Matt Carpenter with one out. After the walk, Musgrove bounced back, getting Yadier Molina to fly out, next striking out Dexter Fowler to end the inning.

The Pirates went down one, two, three to Flaherty for the third time in the game. Flaherty struck out the first two hitters, and Jarrod Dyson’s fly out was the inning ender.

Musgrove was pitching a great game until Tyler O’neill blasted a homerun in the bottom of the third to make it 1-0. The Bucs’ starter regrouped for the next at-bat as he struck out Harrison Bader. With two outs, Pirates catcher, Jacob Stallings, caught Tommy Edman stealing second, ending the inning. Although Musgrove gave up the homer earlier, he bounced back well.

The Middle Innings

Kevin Newman opened up the top of the fourth with the Pirates’ first base hit. Bryan Reynolds reached first on a fielder’s choice, and Newman was out at second. Adam Frazier continued the hitting with a base hit to left. However the Pirates stranded both Reynolds and Frazier as Josh Bell popped out and Colin Moran struck out.

Paul Goldschmidt worked a walk to start off the bottom of the fourth. Musgrove recovered from the early walk to strikeout DeJong. He came back with another strikeout at Carpenter’s expense. The inning ended after a Molina groundout to short.

After giving up a homerun in the inning prior, and then walking the leadoff man in the fourth, Musgrove had a strong comeback. He was also able to notch both his fourth and fifth strikeouts of the game.

The Bucs looked lost at the plate in the top of the fifth. Flaherty had their number as Pittsburgh again went down one, two, three. The Cardinal’s pitcher threw a combination of fastballs and curveballs that drew the Pirates hitters off guard.

Musgrove’s success was short lived as Fowler homered to right, allowing the Cardinals to take a 2-0 lead. However, Musgrove struck out Bader in the next at-bat. The Bucs then almost gave up a third run with two outs, as Kolten Wong almost hit an inside-the-park-homerun, but was out thrown out at home.

Next, Dyson led off the sixth for the Bucs with a groundout to second. Newman, who singled in the fourth, followed up with a strikeout. And Frazier finished the inning with a groundout to first. The Pirates bats had been quiet since they threatened in the top of the fourth. Flaherty’s pitch selection had proved to be too much for Pittsburgh.

Even late in the game, Musgrove was still effective in the sixth, striking out his seventh batter of the night. With one out, Goldschmidt scored himself a base hit. During DeJong’s at-bat, Musgrove lost control and hurled a wild pitch, allowing Goldschmidt to take second. Musgrove walked DeJong, leaving two on with one out.

Derek Shelton made the call to the bullpen. Coming in to replace Musgrove was Clay Holmes. Holmes’ first pitch went into shallow left thanks to an RBI single by Molina. The Cardinals took a three-run lead.

As for Musgrove, the righty pitched well, even though he gave up two homers. His final line of the game was 5.1 innings pitch, seven strikeouts, two walks and three earned runs.

The Latter Innings

Bell reached first on an infield single with one out in the seventh inning. Frazier started the inning with a groundout to second. Next, Moran came up and knocked a single to center. Following that, Osuna hit a liner that bounced off the third baseman’s glove, loading the bases for the Bucs. With two outs, Stallings hit a two-run single, alleviating the pressure. The Cardinals led, 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh.

The Pirates were finally able to hit and score with runners on, something they couldn’t do in the exhibition series. They also proved they could score off of Flaherty, who has been dominating them for most of the game.

Holmes was able to get the first two batters out, however Wong reached on a base hit and a throwing error by Newman. The Bucs were able to keep St. Louis off the board in the bottom of the seventh.

The momentum didn’t carry into the eighth inning for the Bucs. Flaherty had left the game, leaving the Cardinal’s bullpen to find the victory. However, the Pirates couldn’t get a hit, after Ryan Helsley made quick work of Pittsburgh.

Richard Rodriguez entered the game for the Bucs. Holmes threw a solid 1.1 innings for the Pirates, giving up two hits and striking out one. With no one out, DeJong hit a two-run homer off of Rodriguez. The Cardinals widened the gap by three-runs, making it 5-2.

Bell reached on an error by the third baseman to leadoff the ninth. Moran doubled to right, moving Bell to third. Osuna reached on an RBI single, scoring two with no outs. The Bucs fought back to make it a one-run game again. Heredia flew out to right, giving the Bucs their first out of the inning. Stallings however couldn’t come up with a hit, as he grounded into a double play.

The Opening weekend series continues tomorrow for the Pirates. Despite the loss, the Bucs did have some positive takeaways. The Bucs hit with runners on, and scored important runs. Also, pitchers like Holmes really showed up in a one-run game. However, their bullpen still presented issues, as Rodriguez was unable keep the ball in the park.

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