The Pittsburgh Pirates and Francisco Liriano missed an opportunity yesterday to win their first series of the season against their rival St. Louis Cardinals Saturday. It was not all bad news though for the Bucs yesterday as the team announced contract extensions for manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neil Huntington.
Hurdle and Huntington are now locked up through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018 as well. Both men expressed hope that they would be in Pittsburgh beyond the length of the extensions.
So the good news continues for the Pirates, currently tied for first place with the aforementioned Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division. All three teams have a 3-2 record. The Pirates will host St. Louis today in the rubber game of this three game series.
Liriano, the Pirates’ ace and one of the game’s best pitchers last year was hoping to take advantage of a Cardinals lineup that has struggled against left-handed pitching the past couple seasons. However, the Cards got to Liriano before he had a chance to settle in, scoring three runs in the first inning and never looking back.
“I feel like I didn’t have my stuff tonight and was missing my spots with a couple pitches,” Liriano said.
Even so, the Pirates had plenty of opportunities of their own, touching Cardinals starter Joe Kelly for six hits and four walks in 5.1 innings. All that led to just one run though as Pittsburgh left 11 men on base with Kelly on the mound. “We had four innings in the six innings he was out there, the first, the third, the fourth and the sixth, with opportunities to cash in and we weren’t able to do it,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Then came the Cardinal bullpen, which held the Pirates hitless the rest of the way. Now the Pittsburgh will try to turn the table on St. Louis as Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright takes the hill today against Edinson Volquez.
The Pirates began the season with two victories over the Chicago Cubs before the Cubs avoided a sweep Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Hurdle’s team now embarks on a nine-game road trip against NL Central opponents beginning Tuesday in Chicago before heading to Milwaukee next weekend and Cincinnati the following week. In fact, the Pirates will not see a team outside of their division until April 29 when they head to Baltimore for a three game series with the Orioles, meaning the first 26 games of the season will all be divisional games.
So with Cincinnati beset by injuries for the moment, Ryan Braun’s status up in the air and the Cubs being the Cubs, the Pirates have an opportunity to gain some ground on the NL Central foes heading in to May. Getting a leg up on St. Louis today would be a good start as the team Hurdle and Huntington have built begin continue a critical stretch early in the season.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Sports Writer covering the Pittsburgh Pirates