Rodriguez, Pirates shut out Cubs for season's 1st win
Wandy Rodriguez had his left hand pressed against his mouth as much as he had it curled around the ball on a cold Wednesday night at PNC Park, but his performance against the Chicago Cubs had plenty of heat.
Rodriguez took the mound in short sleeves in 35-degree weather, pitched 6 2⁄3 innings and allowed just two hits, walked one and struck out six as the Pirates defeated the Cubs, 3-0.
Andrew McCutchen hit an RBI double and scored in the fourth, and Starling Marte's run-scoring single in the seventh paced the Pirates to their first win of 2013.
Left-hander Tony Watson got the final out of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and then pitched a scoreless eighth.
Jason Grilli made his first appearance as the Pirates' closer since they traded All-Star Joel Hanrahan to Boston in the offseason. He got a quick groundout from Anthony Rizzo then struck out Alfonso Soriano and pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz to earn his first save of the season.
“I think the spotlight's going to be turned on me quite a bit (as a closer), but Watson and Wandy did a hell of a job,” Grilli said. “You've got to look at that set-up. I get the baton in the last part of the relay race, but those guys made a heck of a lot of great pitches and put us in the position to win the ballgame.”
Rodriguez (1-0) historically pitches well in April, with a 2.95 ERA in 33 starts. The Pirates' left-hander allowed one single through six innings, then had to work to get out of trouble in the seventh.
Rodriguez hit Rizzo in the shoulder to lead off the inning, and Soriano singled. He struck out Scott Hairston to record the first out but hit catcher Welington Castillo in the knee to load the bases. Rodriguez hit just one batter in 75 innings with the Pirates last season.
Brent Lillibridge worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2, hit two long foul balls, then struck out looking on a Rodriguez curveball.
“Russell asked (me) what I wanted to throw, and (I) said I wanted to throw my breaking ball because I couldn't locate my fastball,” Rodriguez said through bullpen catcher and translator Heberto Andrade.
Grilli said it was a “gutsy” pitch. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle agreed.
“He's a pro,” Hurdle said. “It's a pro's pitch. No kid's going to throw that pitch. He had the intent, the conviction and he executed it.”
Watson relieved Rodriguez after the strikeout and got Alberto Gonzalez to pop up to end the inning.
Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson (0-1), who was 4-0 in seven career starts against the Pirates, allowed two runs on three hits and struck out five in five innings. He was replaced by right-hander Hector Rondon, who made his major league debut.
Jackson retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, allowing just a two-out single to Neil Walker in the second inning.
Garrett Jones singled for his first hit of the season to lead off the fourth. McCutchen doubled to left, and Jones raced home to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Pedro Alvarez grounded to first, moving McCutchen to third. The Cubs brought the infield in for Gaby Sanchez, who hit a grounder to short. Starlin Castro tried to backhand it but flubbed it for an error, and McCutchen scored to make it 2-0.
The Pirates had six hits, including Clint Barmes' seventh-inning double.
“Offensively, we're going to find our way,” Hurdle said. “We're probably not as comfortable as you'd like to be in the batter's box right now. Some of that's got to do with the pitching, and some of that's got to do with our anxiety to make something happen.”