Polanco delivers as Bucs win wild opener in 13th

March 30th, 2018

DETROIT -- The Pirates and Tigers each have 161 more games scheduled this season. They could play another thousand, maybe more, and never have another game like this.

Having already been delayed a day, Pittsburgh and Detroit spent their Opening Day -- and part of the evening -- trading late-inning rallies in what became the longest season opener in either club's history on Friday. In the end, their opener had everything from a run-scoring passed ball to an umpire leaving the game to a blown save to a potential game-winning run reversed via replay. But it effectively ended with 's three-run homer in the 13th inning, which powered the Pirates to a 13-10 win in a 5-hour, 27-minute marathon.

"Sometimes when those games start getting long in extra innings, it kind of seems like it's never going to end," said left-hander , who earned the win by pitching three scoreless innings. "That's a good win. Two teams that just didn't want to lose on Opening Day and were doing everything they could not to."

There were a few moments, however, when it seemed like both clubs found ways to fall behind. The Pirates had a 4-2 lead at the seventh-inning stretch, bolstered by 's repeated escape acts and timely hits from Corey Dickerson, and Josh Bell. It turned into a home run-free slugfest from there, with both clubs running it up against relievers and capitalizing on each other's mistakes.

"We covered a lot of ground today. A lot of things happened on the field. We made some good things happen, " Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But it was a really good fight for the guys, really good grit in the box offensively, and we made enough pitches to win late."

The Pirates used seven of the eight pitchers in their bullpen -- everyone but . By the time it was over, was the only Tigers pitcher still available. The Pirates were riding high after breaking a 6-6 tie with four runs in the ninth, only to see closer walk three batters and fail to finish the inning.

and hit two-run doubles, the latter with two outs against lefty Josh Smoker, to send the game into extra innings. What looked like a walk-off single from in the 10th was reversed -- much to the surprise and dismay of the celebrating Tigers and their fans -- when a replay review determined that Cervelli tagged before he touched home plate.

"You don't have a lot of time to think too much. You just have to execute," Cervelli said. "Every game is important. Every play is important. We're here to win every game. If we have to play 20 innings here, we'll come and we'll do it."

After three scoreless innings, the Pirates finally broke through in the 13th. and Josh Harrison singled with two outs, sending reliever Alex Wilson past the 50-pitch mark. Polanco clobbered a 3-0 fastball and sent it over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field for the first home run of the game.

"I knew as soon as I got that, I got everything on that ball," Polanco said. "It means a lot. A win's a win. It's always good to start on the right path."


Nova strands bases loaded: Twice, the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out, including the first inning for the middle of the lineup. Both times, Nova emerged unscathed, striking out Castellanos and McCann in the first inning before getting a popout and McCann double-play grounder in the fifth.

"You try to stay tough mentally. You don't want to get guys on base, bases loaded. No, I want to get people out," Nova said. "Everyone out there, I want to get them out. … Bases loaded, OK, fine, I've got to keep making pitches. No panic there." More >

Cabrera leads Tigers back: struggled through back issues in 2017, but one seventh-inning swing on Friday looked much like his old form. Cabrera just missed a home run off , sending a ball foul into the right-field seats, but lined the next pitch -- a fastball below his knees -- into the right-field corner for a two-run double to tie the game at 4. Feliz, acquired in January and thrust into a high-leverage role, allowed four runs on three hits and a walk without recording an out in the seventh.

Brault denies one last rally: The Tigers made one more attempt at a rally in the 13th when back-to-back one-out singles from Jones and McCann brought to the plate as the potential tying run. Brault ended the threat by striking out Mahtook and , finishing out his third scoreless inning.

"He's fun to watch. He's not going to back down," Hurdle said. "Didn't back down. Threw strikes. That's what we needed at that time, somebody throwing strikes and changing speeds."


"Polanco gets [to] 3-0, and we're all like, 'Oh man, groove a fastball. Do it. Do it.' Then he did it, and Polanco hit it 80,000 feet. It was such a cool moment. We all got super pumped." -- Brault, on Polanco's home run

"Kontos was the one who called the homer. 'Hit it right now. Hit a homer.' Then [Polanco] hit a homer. [Kontos] goes, 'Give me some credit.' Thank you, Kontos." -- Nova, on watching Polanco's homer with setup man


Polanco became the first Pirate to hit a home run in the 13th inning or later on Opening Day since Willie Stargell in 1966.

The Tigers scored 10 runs and lost on Opening Day for the first time in franchise history. Just 13 other Major League teams have suffered that fate since 1908, the last being the Texas Rangers in a 14-10 loss to the Phillies to open the 2014 season.

Six Pirates had multihit performances: Frazier, Harrison, Polanco, Bell, Marte and Cervelli. Eight of their nine starters -- everyone but -- recorded at least one hit.


Ron Gardenhire's first replay challenge as Tigers manager resulted in a reversal and eventually spared them a fourth-inning run. First-base umpire Bill Welke initially ruled Marte safe at first, beating starting pitcher to first base on a slow roller. A 47-second review showed that Zimmermann just caught the bag by his toes to beat out Marte and record an out. Cervelli's double two pitches later scored two runs to tie the game.

Six innings later, a longer review reversed what would've been a game-winning run from Castellanos on Jones' two-out single. After a 3-minute, 41-second review, the replay official definitively determined that Cervelli tagged Castellanos before he could touch the plate. The call was reversed, sending the game into the 11th inning and sending Gardenhire out of the dugout for his first ejection as Tigers manager.


Right-hander , part of the Opening Day rotation after breaking camp in the bullpen last year, will make his season debut as the Pirates face the Tigers on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. ET. Williams, who will face Detroit right-hander , went 6-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 25 starts last season.

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