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Walker's homer lifts Pirates over Cubs 1-0

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 4:34 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Neil Walker (18) is greeted by teammates after hitting a walk-off solo-home run off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carlos Villanueva during the tenth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Monday, March 31, 2014. The Pirates won 1-0 in ten innings.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Neil Walker homered off Carlos Villanueva leading off the 10th inning Monday, and the Pittsburgh Pirates benefited from an overturned to call to beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on opening day Monday.

Walker's first career game-ending homer easily cleared the Clemente Wall while his teammates rushed onto the field in celebration. It was the first opening-day walkoff homer for the Pirates since Bob Bailey's off San Francisco's Juan Marichal in a 1-0 victory in 1965.

Reliever Bryan Morris (1-0) won with the help of an overturned pickoff call in the top of the 10th under Major League Baseball's new replay system. Starter Francisco Liriano and four relievers combined for 11 strikeouts.

Emilio Bonifacio went 4 for 5 for Chicago, but the Cubs were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and wasted a fine start by Jeff Samardzija, who scattered five hits over seven innings.

Travis Ishikawa had two of the six hits by Pittsburgh, which began 2014 much the same way the Pirates spent a long stretch of their breakout 2013: by riding solid pitching and a lights out bullpen to victory.

Liriano resurrected his career last season, winning 16 games despite not making his first start until May and putting together a pair of solid postseason outings. He had a dominant performance in a wild card win over Cincinnati that marked Pittsburgh's first playoff victory in 21 years.

Vaulted to opening-day starter after the offseason departure of A.J. Burnett, Liriano looked comfortable as an ace and didn't panic when he got into trouble. He worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth thanks in part to a double play upheld on video review that served as the debut of MLB's expanded replay. Facing the same situation in the sixth, he kept the Cubs scoreless behind a pair of strikeouts and an infield fly.

Samardzija proved every bit Liriano's equal, striking out three and walking two before giving way to a bullpen that had little trouble until Walker stepped in leading off the bottom of the 10th.

On a day the Pirates made overtures to their history — welcoming back former star Barry Bonds for the first time in a team function his he left for San Francisco after the 1992 season — the club was also a part of history.

Chicago manager Rick Renteria made the first official appeal under MLB's expanded replay system in the fifth, asking for another look at a double play after Samardzija was called out at first by umpire Bob Davidson. The call was confirmed in MLB's New York replay room by umpire Larry Vanover during a 2-minute delay.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked for a review in the 10th after Davidson ruled Bonifacio safe on a pickoff attempt by Morris. The call was overturned after a 2:30 delay.

NOTES: Though the left-handed Ishikawa started in the opener, Hurdle reiterated Gaby Sanchez will get the majority playing time at the position and the manager does not see the left-handed Ishikawa and the right-handed Sanchez working on a straight platoon rotation. ... Pirates C Chris Stewart took batting practice and says he is coming along ahead of schedule in his rehab from knee surgery. Stewart believe he can beat the timetable of late April for his return. ... Chicago OF Brian Bogusevic was unavailable because of ankle soreness. He is expected to be ready to play Wednesday. ... The teams are off Tuesday. Chicago's Edwin Jackson faces Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton on Wednesday night.

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