PITTSBURGH (AP/KDKA) – Colin Moran hit a first-inning grand slam in his debut at PNC Park, Jameson Taillon tied a career high with nine strikeouts and the Pittsburgh Pirates held on for a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins in their home opener on Monday.
Of all the days to debut as a Pittsburgh Pirate at PNC Park, perhaps Moran had among the most difficult of circumstances to consider.
Having been included in the four-player return for former first-round pick Gerrit Cole in a trade with the Houston Astros before Spring Training, Moran was touted for his refined swing mechanics and power potential, perhaps being able to exploit the advantage left-handed hitters have with the Clemente Wall in right field. Also with the cold weather conditions before first pitch, it was a climate not necessarily conducive to the ability to hit baseballs far.
Moran used that advantage to make a strong first impression with the home fans, belting a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning during the Pirates’ home opener against the Minnesota Twins.
Having worked a full count, Moran pulled a pitch from the Twins’ Lance Lynn over the right field wall for an estimated distance of 405 feet at a velocity of 108 miles per hour, per Statcast.
Moran, whose first 16 games of his major league career came in the American League with the Astros, says he is using his teammates’ expertise to get acclimated to a new team and a new league.
“I like just picking different guys’ brains,” he said before the game. “We have a lot experienced guys here and a lot of talented ones, so I’m just trying to learn from all the guys.”
It was a vast improvement from Moran’s first nine plate appearances as a Pirate, where he recorded only one hit, a double on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Moran went 0-for-6 in Detroit on Opening Day Friday.
“I was kind of anxious and got a little antsy up there,” Moran said of his first game as a Pirate. “You learn from it and things settle down, and I’m just excited to play smart baseball.”
Moran batted eighth during the opening series in Detroit, but hit seventh at home against the Twins on Monday. If Moran can continue to develop as a power-hitting prospect, he could help the lineup be more productive at the bottom half.
“We believe we have tough outs all throughout the lineup,” Moran said. “We strung together some really good at-bats during the games and most importantly, we ended up on top in three games.”
A first-round pick of the Miami Marlins in the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft, Moran hit 48 home runs in five seasons in the minor leagues. Eighteen of them came last season with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in Fresno.
Gregory Polanco added an RBI double and reached base five times for Pittsburgh.
Taillon allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, but his stellar work was nearly undone by a shaky bullpen
He left with a runner on and 5-1 lead in the sixth only to see the Twins score three more times in the inning. Minnesota put the tying run on base in both the seventh and eighth but couldn’t pull even.
George Kontos worked a perfect ninth for his second career save, Closer Felipe Rivero was unavailable after saving both ends of a doubleheader on Sunday in Detroit.
Brian Dozier homered for the second straight day for the Twins. Eduard Escobar had two hits and an RBI. Max Kepler also drove in a run for Minnesota.
Lynn lasted just four innings in his first game with Minnesota since signing a one-year deal with the Twins last month. He struggled with his location, walking six and striking out just one.
Three walks in the first helped set the stage for Moran, who sent a chest-high offering from Lynn over the 21-foot high Clemente Wall for just the third grand slam in a Pittsburgh home opener according to STATS, joining Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner in 1949 and Roberto Clemente in 1962.
Moran, among four players acquired from the Astros for Cole, made a brief curtain call to the 30,186 in attendance, the smallest crowd for a Pirates home opener smallest since 28,985 at Three Rivers Stadium in 1982.
Part of the slide had to do with the 40-degree temperature at first pitch and part apathy stemming from the offseason trades of Cole and 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen for prospects.
Either way, the Pirates have tied their best start since beginning the 2003 and 2016 seasons 4-0.
Pirates: Placed RHP Joe Musgrove on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to March 30 with a muscle strain in his right shoulder. Musgrove had been scheduled to start on Thursday against Cincinnati. … SS Jordy Mercer left in the sixth inning with discomfort in his right hand.
Twins: Jake Odorizzi makes his second start for the Twins on Wednesday after being acquired in a mid-February trade with Tampa Bay. Odorizzi pitched six shutout innings in his 2018 debut last week against Baltimore.
Pirates: Ivan Nova (0-0, 3.60 ERA) is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts against Minnesota.
(TM and © Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)