Gritty pitching, grand slam lift Bucs to 4-0 start

April 2nd, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- After a long, bizarre weekend in Detroit, the Pirates' flight landed in Pittsburgh about 12 hours before threw out the first pitch of their home opener at PNC Park. As players arrived at the ballpark Monday morning, the grounds crew was shoveling snow and ice off the tarp. They were pitching without the safety net of closer , who saved both halves of Sunday's frigid doubleheader.

But the Pirates would not be deterred. introduced himself with a grand slam. Taillon recorded 16 outs, their young relievers gritted their way through eight more and picked up his second career save to seal the Bucs' 5-4 victory over the Twins, improving Pittsburgh to 4-0 on the year.

"It says a lot about our character, about our fight," said Taillon, who tied a career high with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. "It's been cold. Weird travel schedule. Doubleheader. It's been kind of an interesting start to the year. It says a lot about the fight in these guys. That's kind of how I think we're going to have to win these games."

They won Monday's game with a burst of early offense. The Twins' rotation had not allowed a run all season until Monday, when gave up five runs in the first and exited after walking six batters with three strikeouts over four innings. Right fielder doubled in a run in the first, and Moran gave Pittsburgh a five-run lead with a grand slam that quickly earned him a curtain call in his PNC Park debut.

"It's been really fun. Not too many other words to describe it. This has been a great start," Moran said. "Looking forward to keeping it going. It's been a good start, to start 4-0. Try to build on that."

Taillon was electric early on but ran into trouble in the sixth, when took him deep to left. Relievers and Josh Smoker combined to record only one out as the Pirates' lead dwindled to one run with due up. In came . Buxton smashed a curveball to left field, but twisted and turned and eventually leaped to record the inning-ending out.

Neverauskas ran into trouble in the seventh, walking the leadoff man and hitting with a pitch. But Neverauskas got Dozier to ground into a key double play before retiring Joe Mauer. overcame two walks and a balk in a scoreless eighth. Then the Pirates turned to Kontos, the lone veteran in their bullpen, who delivered a perfect ninth.

"They put the barrel on us a little bit, and we got the outs we needed," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The bullpen's going to be interesting. It's going to be fun. We're going to cut some teeth. There's going to be some days when guys are going to continue to grow and develop."


A grand impression: Moran did not hit a home run in Spring Training. He went hitless on Opening Day and left Detroit on Sunday with only one hit in nine at-bats. He made up for it in a hurry in his first home game with the Pirates. Moran came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning. With the count full, Moran launched a high fastball from Lynn into the right-field seats for his first career grand slam to give the Bucs a 5-0 lead.

"We haven't seen him hit a home run since he's been a Pirate," Hurdle said. "That's pretty cool."

Down the line: Dozier kick-started the Twins' sixth-inning rally with a home run off Taillon that tucked just inside the left-field foul pole. It was Dozier's third home run in two days and Minnesota's first piece of solid contact against Taillon. The Twins' first two hits were softly hit singles -- one against the shift and another that deflected off Taillon. Then came Dozier's homer and a single by Mauer that ended Taillon's outing. He said he wouldn't second-guess the pitch he made to Dozier, a fastball up and in.

"I came off the mound like, 'Man, that's where I wanted that pitch to be,'" Taillon said. "But he hit a home run, so it's clearly not where I wanted it to be."


After Neverauskas walked to lead off the seventh, Logan Morrison entered to pinch-hit for reliever . Neverauskas' first pitch appeared to hit Morrison's foot, but it was initially ruled a ball. The Twins asked for a challenge, and the call was overturned and Morrison trotted to first base. He was quickly cut down at second, however, as Neverauskas induced the 5-4-3 double play.


After an off-day on Tuesday, the Pirates will return to PNC Park at 6:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday to complete their two-game series with the Twins. Right-hander , who allowed two runs over five innings on Opening Day, is slated to start against Minnesota righty Jake Odorizzi.

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