Bucs blast Dodgers in season opener
For at least one day, the Pirates can forget the sting of the past 17 seasons.
Before the fourth-largest crowd in PNC Park history Monday, the Pirates pounded out 10 hits, received a solid outing from starting pitcher Zach Duke and hung on to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 11-5, for the highest-scoring home opener victory in club history.
"It was a great day," Pirates manager John Russell said. "The guys were really into it. They've been working hard for this day. The crowd was great. The weather was beautiful and you couldn't ask for anything more. We played a good game and it's something very good to build off of."
Leading the Pirates' hit parade was Garrett Jones, who playing in his first career home opener, produced a 2-for-4, two-home run performance.
Catcher Ryan Doumit was also 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, while Ronny Cedeno added two hits and an RBI.
After Jones led all Major League rookies with 21 home runs and a .567 slugging percentage in 2009, the importance of making a fast start in the Pirates 2010 campaign was not lost on the 28-year-old right fielder.
"It feels good," Jones said. "It's only one game. Granted it's opening day with a huge crowd. It feels great, but in the end it's only one game. We've got a lot of games left, a long season, and we're just going to try to stay consistent and keep that same approach and take it one day at a time."
For Duke, who also started on Opening Day in 2007, earning his first win of the season did not come as easily. The left hander worked five innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with a walk and strikeout.
"I had to battle," Duke said. "It certainly wasn't my sharpest, but I figured out a way to get the outs when I needed them."
Duke conceded the Dodgers a pair of runs in the first inning. After getting Los Angeles lead-off hitter Rafael Furcal to fly out to right field to begin the game, Duke walked Russell Martin and conceded a double to Andre Ethier before Matt Kemp singled in both players to hand the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
Over the next four innings, however, Duke allowed five hits but kept Los Angeles off the scoreboard.
"The big thing for me was throwing up zeros after the two runs in the first inning and keeping it close," Duke said.
While Duke kept the game close, his teammates went to work on Dodgers starting pitcher Vicente Padilla.
Newly-acquired Pirates lead-off hitter Aki Iwamura drew a walk to begin the bottom of the first inning and was driven home by Jones' two-run homer, which traveled 456 feet and landed in the Allegheny River on a bounce.
Jones went the opposite direction in the third inning and sneaked his second home run of the game just over the wall down the left field line to hand the Pirates a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
"Garrett had a great day," Russell said.
"That's what he's capable of doing. We saw it last year. People continue to question it. I don't really know why, but this guy's a good baseball player and he does a lot of things right."
With a five-run fifth inning, the Pirates would chase Padilla from the game and put their first victory of the season well within reach.
Lasting Milledge opened the bottom of the fifth with a run-scoring double, while pinch hitter Ryan Church plated three runs off reliever Ramon Ortiz with a bases-clearing double before Cedeno added an RBI single to make the Pirates lead 8-2.
"We have a lot of weapons sitting on the bench," Church said after breaking the game open with his first at-bat in a Pirates uniform. "It's going to be fun."
Padilla took the loss for the Dodgers, lasting 41⁄3 innings. He allowed seven earned runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
The Dodgers totaled 11 hits against six different Pirates pitchers and were led at the plate by Manny Ramirez, Ethier, Kemp, Casey Blake and Blake DeWitt, who all collected two hits each.
In the seventh inning, Los Angeles cut into the Pirates lead after a two-RBI single by Ramirez and a run-scoring groundout by James Loney made the score 8-5.
All three runs were charged to reliever D.J. Carrasco, who worked 2⁄3 of the inning.
Doumit's three-run homer to left field in the eighth off Dodgers reliever George Sherrill bumped the Pirates lead back to six runs at 11-5.
"It's nice to see that we're not relying on one guy," Russell said. "A lot of guys chipped in today."