CHICAGO — Neil Walker liked his chances in the fifth inning today against Ryan Dempster. There were two outs, the bases were loaded and the Pirates trailed, 2-0.
“I knew it was the first time he’d been in trouble during the game,” Walker said. “He’d just walked Jose (Tabata). I didn’t want to try to do too much. I wasn’t up there looking for one pitch.”
Walker struck out swinging in his first at-bat, then flew out to right in his second try against Dempster.
“His stuff was sharp, my first two at-bats,” Walker said. “He just kind of lost a little bit of control. I wasn’t looking for fastballs. I was looking to get the foot down and use the big part of the field. When I got to a 3-2 count, I knew he didn’t want to walk me.”
Walker fouled off a good cutter, then blasted a four-seamer for his first career grand slam.
“It was a big league at-bat at the right time,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
»»» Hurdle perfectly summed up the pitchers’ performance: “We pitched better than they did today. It was good to see our core group (Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan) be involved. And it was good to see a guy we brought in from the outside (Kevin Correia) get off to a good start.”
»»» My good friend Marty Caridi texted me after the game that Hanny hit 100 mph on the gun. I checked the mlb.com stats, and it didn’t show any triple-digit fastballs. However, Hanrahan was consistently around 98 mph and did hurl one at 99 mph. It was his second-to-last pitch of the game, and Aramis Ramirez took it … for a ball. Still, 99 mph — very impressive.
»»» One big difference about the lineup this year is an increased threat of power, even from some possibly unlikely sources. Walker and Andrew McCutchen each went deep today, giving them a combined total of 51 homers in the majors. Garret Jones, Pedro Alvarez and Lyle Overbay also are legit threats to knock one out. It’s a huge help for the pitching staff.
“Having guys like that, that you know have that ability, it puts a lot of pressure on (the other team) and it gives you a lot of confidence to keep going out there and putting up zeros.” Correia said.