Pirates Takeaways: Quintana’s Strong Start Lone Bright Spot in Home Opener
PITTSBURGH — José Quintana might have provided the silver lining from an otherwise dreary 2-1 home opener loss to the Chicago Cubs for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
Unlike most seasons, the weather wasn’t the cause for the down mood for PNC Park’s opener, as 60 degrees and sun reigned over Pittsburgh, but instead it was a listless Pittsburgh offense that couldn’t get the 34,458 that showed up to cheer on the Bucs going.
“I’ve talked about it since December of 2019,” manager Derek Shelton said. “To see the people there, they were into the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t give them more to cheer about, but the atmosphere was outstanding.”
The Pirates went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and only Bryan Reynolds’ eighth-inning solo home run kept them from being shut out.
But the performance of Quintana kept the day from being a total loss. Not expected to be the Pirates’ ace by any stretch, the elder statesmen of the staff who carried a 6.43 ERA through 2021 matched Cubs starter Drew Smyly throughout on Tuesday.
Quintana pitched 5 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and gave up just one run, a Seiya Suzuki solo homer that just eked out of the ball park at 397 feet in right-center field.
“He was good,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He went through a predominately right-handed lineup, kept them off the barrel with the exception of Seiya. I thought he did a really nice job going back and forth.
“He went to both sides of the plate. He used all of his pitches. One of the reasons we left him in Florida was to get the fifth up. We didn’t have anybody that had got to the fifth up and he did that. All day long, I thought he threw the ball well. If he goes out in the rest of his starts and throws the ball like that, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Quintana agreed with that assessment, even if he was disappointed at the losing effort.
“It’s tough when they hit a couple of balls like that, but that’s baseball,” he said. “If I keep throwing the ball like that, I’ll be happy with the results.”
The Pirates didn’t know much about Suzuki, who came over from the Hiroshima Carp this offseason on an $85 million contract. Quintana said the pitch that went for a home run was a mistake, and not a case of a lack of information against a new opponent.
“There was not too much information on him,” Quintana said. “I tried to follow the plan, to throw the fastball close to him. I think when he hit the homer, the ball came back over the middle. … Next time we need to see him, watch him on the video and make a plan going forward. He’s tough.”
“I think Major League Baseball is going to find that out pretty quickly,” Shelton said. “Two good swings by Suzuki today and that was the difference in the game.”
Suzuki seems to be a strong signing for the Cubs. In four games, Suzuki is hitting .417/.529/1.167 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
The Pirates tough day with runners on base didn’t really seem to phase Shelton, who credited Smyly and the Chicago pitching staff.
“They kept us off the barrel when they needed to,” Shelton said. “Smyly did a good job. Their bullpen did a good job. We had opportunities to score, we just couldn’t come up with a big hit.”
The opener was the first chance for the PNC Park crowd to check out the new amenities at the ballpark, and the two bars flanking the batter’s eye seemed to be a huge hit. They stayed full of patrons throughout the game.
“The fans were great,” Reynolds said. “It was a blast to run around the outfield and have that atmosphere. … There were a lot of people out there on both of the bars. I think that’s a great addition.”
Reliever Anthony Banda got out of a big inherited jam in the sixth, striking out two with two runners on after relieving Quintana.
Shelton wasn’t rewarded with his faith in him, as Suzuki hit his second home off him as the first batter of the seventh. But on the whole, the one hard-hit ball over an inning and two-thirds is a result the Pirates
“He came in a big situation against two pretty good right-handed hitters and got punch outs,” Banda said. “He did a nice job and then left a ball inside to a pretty good hitter.”