Everyone, breathe a sigh of relief. The Pirates are 3-0 and the Cardinals are in last place and a few of the fears coming into the season have been allayed as much as they can be in a three game series.
This was a great team win for the Pirates. There were hits up and down the lineup, with everyone getting at least one except for Mercer and Polanco, who walked once and thrice, respectively. The big story coming out of this is obviously Juan Nicasio, who juan everyone over with his stellar performance (sorry, I didn’t put any puns on Twitter yesterday and I didn’t want to be completely left out). The only real blemish in his six innings was the solo homer he gave up, and with the offense firing the way it has been, who cares about that? Nicasio really hit his spots and made some great pitches, which is why he’s in the rotation in the first place. If he can pitch even close to this all season, the Pirates are going to have a good year. Nicasio did a good job if getting first pitch strikes:
Only four of the twenty batters Nicasio faced didn’t see a first pitch strike, giving him a 75% first pitch strike rate, which is much higher than the league average of 60% last season. This was a big reason he was successful and could keep his pitch count down.
Offensively, John Jaso’s triple was a big boost, as this, plus the Kolten Wong "error” that was really more laziness on the part of Matt Carpenter not catching the ball, allowed the Pirates to extend their lead to two. The offense added a few more runs on Cervelli and Rodriguez doubles (Starling Marte was FLYING to score from first on the Cervelli one, which wasn’t a particularly hard-to-reach ball in play) and the game was in hand from there, with the bullpen shutting it down for the third straight game. Caminero even hit 102.2 on the radar gun, which is awesome! And I know I’ve been big on Polanco’s start thus far, but his three walks are awesome to see, too. He might be developing into the player everyone was hoping he would be.
In the larger context of the season, this was a hell of a series to open with. The Pirates have announced themselves against the only team in baseball who won more games than them the past three years. And they did it without Cy Young-candidate Gerrit Cole throwing a single inning. National League (and specifically, the Cubs): you’re on notice, because the Pirates look like they came to play this year.
The Reds are up this weekend; I’ll be out of town without cell service, so look for a recap of the series in a few days and regular posts to resume next week.