It was only three games, but the Pirates had plenty to like after taking their opening series in Chicago.
A year ago, they lost 105 games, so any victory is welcome. But these two, including the energetic 5-4 come-from-behind win Sunday, brought them within 15 victories of their 2010 total on the road. (Yes, really.) The Pirates also saw surprisingly solid pitching from Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. They saw leadoff man Jose Tabata reach base seven times. They saw future bopper Pedro Alvarez deliver four RBI. They saw closer Joel Hanrahan nail down his first two save chances.
And, perhaps above all, they saw the team rebound Sunday following an agonizing loss the previous day, in which a three-run lead was blown in the eighth.
"It's good to see," manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's been a lot to like."
The part that might have been most gratifying to the Pirates is that they scored the decisive run Sunday on aggressive baserunning, the facet Hurdle stressed the most all spring. Alvarez's infield single in the ninth easily scored Garrett Jones from third for the tying run, but Walker also sprinted home after he saw Chicago's Starlin Castro pursue Alvarez's squibber. Walker slid under catcher Geovany Soto's legs, then leaped to high-five teammates.
"It goes back to the aggressive baserunning trend, try to be smart and try to be aggressive," Hurdle said. "Nick Leyva is a very aggressive third base coach, and Neil plays the game that way when he's on the bases. Once he saw the play develop from second, he knew there was a very good shot he was going to pull something off. And he did."
"My goal was just to score," Walker said. "I knew Castro had a tough play and, if he picks that ball clean and makes a good throw to first, he still has to make a really good throw to home to get me. I don't know if Leyva tried to hold me or not, but my goal was to be at home and, fortunately, I was."
Emotions aside, Hurdle cautioned against taking it too far.
"If we're to get off to a good start, whatever that means, what happens next?" Hurdle said. "We have to be prepared to play well all season, bounce back when things don't go well."
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