On the North Shore, for the second straight night, the Pirates scored in the first inning and then not again, which is never a good thing when the number of runs involved is two and then one.
In New Jersey, the Steelers didn’t necessarily pick up where they left off in 2013, but there were familiar shortcomings in their performance.
The Pirates lost to the San Diego Padres, 2-1; the Steelers to the New York Giants, 20-16.
Judging from comments from readers on various sites, panic has set in for both teams. It’s way too early for that with the Pirates and it’s way, way, way too early with the Steelers.
The Steelers are four weeks away from playing a game that counts so almost any reaction at all is an overreaction. It was a first game. Ben Roethlisberger played one series and connected with rookie speedster Dri Archer on a 46-yard completion that put the ball on the New York 14, from where the Steelers could do little and had to settle for a field goal.
On the next play from scrimmage, Giants running back Rashad Jennings, who played part of his college career at Pitt, bolted up the middle, found a hole slightly larger than gaping and romped 73 yards for a touchdown.
The Giants led, 13-3, at the half. The Steelers led, 16-13, in the fourth quarter. In other words, subs, many of whom won’t be playing in the NFL, decided the outcome of the game.
Anyone who feels either optimistic or pessimistic about the Steelers following this game is overreacting.
The loss at PNC Park caused a slight overreaction from some fans, many of whom either expect the Pirates to win every game or, at least, don’t seem to grasp that even the best MLB teams will lose 62 or more times a year.
That said, scoring three runs in two games is never a good sign, even if the Padres’ pitching staff leads the National League in ERA. The Pirates were again playing without Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in the starting lineup, but the men who replaced them, Jayson Nix (2-for-3) and Michael Martinez (0-for-3), were a combined 2-for-6.
Francisco Liriano gave up two runs in the first inning -- three singles and a sacrifice fly -- and then was near-perfect over the next six innings. He retired 17 batters in order before issuing a two-out walk in the seventh.
The Pirates had a splendid chance in the eighth when Jordy Mercer singled and Russell Martin doubled to start the inning. But Ike Davis, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco could not bring them home.
It doesn’t get easier for the Pirates this afternoon. Tyson Ross, 10-10 with a 2.62 ERA starts for the Padres, against Charlie Morton. The Padres have won Ross’ past four starts. In his past nine starts, Ross has an ERA of 1.62.
Walker pinch-hit in the ninth inning (and struck out), opening the possibility he could return to the starting lineup this afternoon.
He said, “I probably could have played today, but with the night-day game, figured I might as well just give it an extra little bit of time.”
No word on when McCutchen will return or whether he will be placed on the disabled list.