The 2016 MLB season is underway, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were the victors in the first game of the season, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 4-1.
While several players had strong games on both sides, Francisco Liriano stole the show with six innings of shutout baseball with 10 strikeouts in total. Liriano struggled at various points in the game, walking five batters in total, but Liriano was still able to get himself out of every jam that he got himself into with walks.
Liriano’s final line was six innings pitched, three hits, zero earned runs, five walks, and ten strikeouts. Interestingly enough, that was the first time that specific pitching line had ever occurred in baseball history.
Francisco Liriano is the first pitcher in the history of baseball to have the 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 10 K line
— August Fagerstrom (@AugustFG_) April 3, 2016
History aside, Liriano was his usual stressful self, at least for Pirates fans. He’s arguably been one of the better pitchers in baseball over the last several years in terms of pure stuff, but his struggles with control on the mound has always slowed him down at least a little bit. On Opening Day, Liriano showed both sides of that, with plenty of walks, but also quite a bit of dominance as well.
For the Cardinals it was a tough day at the plate. Liriano had his way with the Cardinals for most of the day, striking out five of the first seven hitters to come to the plate. On top of that, Liriano didn’t even give up a hit until the fourth inning, although he did face bases loaded jams in both the fourth and sixth innings, both of which he pitched out of it. In total the Cardinals only were able to manage five hits total, two of which came in the 9th inning when they were finally able to break through against Pirates’ closer Mark Melancon, who looked a little shaky in his first appearance of the year.
Despite the late flurry by the Cards, Melancon was able to shut the door on the Cardinals and finish off the first win of the season for both Liriano and the Pirates as a team. The Pirates pushed across two runs in the second inning, one in the sixth, and a final run in the eighth, which was plenty of run support for Liriano on the day.
One interesting storyline from the game was the lineup construction of Clint Hurdle. Rather than stick with a similar lineup that was executed for most of the 2015 season, Hurdle went with the team’s star Andrew McCutchen second in the order instead of having him third. McCutchen went 0-2 in four at bats, but it will be interesting to see if Hurdle continues to bat McCutchen second going forward this season.
Both the Cardinals and Pirates have their work cut out for them in the National League Central behind the Chicago Cubs. For the Pirates, this was a good start. For the Cardinals, there is always tomorrow (or Tuesday) to bounce back. Game One of the 2016 MLB season is in the books.