Pittsburgh Pirates: Whew!

Barry BealCorrespondent IApril 1, 2008

The Pittsburgh Pirates won last night, 12-11 in 12 innings.

While that may seem like a standard line on a news report, it turned out to be much more than that.

For better and for worse, this was unlike any Opening Day the Pittsburgh Pirates have ever had.

First, let’s go with the better.

New manager John Russell got his first win, becoming the first Pirates’ skipper to win his first game at the helm since Gene Lamont in 1997. Jim Tracy didn’t win his first game with the Bucs until the final game of the opening season road trip.

I think Russell will be fine, but I’m fairly certain his hair will be thinner and grayer by September.

The other good sign was the pounding the offense put on the Braves' pitching.

Sure, the Braves committed three errors, and the Pirates were 5-for-22 with men in scoring position, but Xavier Nady’s two home runs and four RBI put him on a pace Ruth, McGwire, and Bonds combined couldn’t match: 324 homers and 648 RBI.

Even if the Pirates don’t score double-digit runs each night, an enlightened offense will be necessary if the outfielders don’t learn how to call a fly ball. A routine fly ball, mind you, which would have ended the game at 9-7.

But, again, these are the Bafflin’ Buccos.

Nate McLouth and Jason Bay forgot the rules of playing the outfield that most of us learned in Little League. The ball fell harmlessly to the turf at Turner Field, plating two and tying the score. Hey, Nate, as the centerfielder, it’s your ball. Call it!

Luckily, Nady’s home run in the 12th saved the day. For the Pirates, a win is a win whenever you can grab one.

You usually don’t consider the formula for success to include blowing a five-run lead in the ninth with your two best relievers, but I can guarantee Russell won’t forget his first big-league victory.

Only 161 more of these.