PITTSBURGH (AP) — Colin Moran’s name will forever be entwined with Gerrit Cole’s whether the new Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman likes it or not. It simply comes with the territory when you’re part of the trade that sends a franchise cornerstone out of town.
Moran did little during spring training to hint at the power potential the Pirates saw in him when they made him part of the deal that sent Cole to Houston in January. Even as Pittsburgh led the Grapefruit League in homers, he failed to go deep even once.
Then Moran swung at a full-count fastball from Minnesota’s Lance Lynn with the bases loaded in the first inning on Monday. A minute later he was taking a curtain call after the first grand slam of his young career helped the Pirates edge the Minnesota Twins 5-4 to give the franchise just its third 4-0 start in 35 years.
“Probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced on a baseball field,” Moran said after hitting his second home run in the majors.
Even Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle admitted to getting goose bumps, a rarity now for someone entering their fifth decade in pro baseball.
“To hear our home crowd embrace him like that and ask him to come back out for a curtain call, that’s never not good,” Hurdle said.
Moran’s shot to the seats above the Clemente Wall in right field staked Jameson Taillon to a five-run cushion. Taillon tamped down his pregame butterflies to keep the Twins off balance for 5 1/3 innings and the bullpen narrowly avoided letting things slip away. Taillon allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, but his stellar work was nearly undone by a shaky bullpen
Minnesota rallied for four runs in the sixth off Taillon and three relievers then put the tying base on in the seventh and eighth but couldn’t pull even. George Kontos worked a perfect ninth for his second career save with usual closer Felipe Rivero unavailable after finishing up both ends of a doubleheader on Sunday in Detroit.
“They put the barrel on us a little bit but we got the outs we needed,” Hurdle said.
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 but Lynn lasted just four innings in his first game with the Twins since signing a one-year deal 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.
“I’ve got to do better than that,” said Lynn. “You can’t put your team in a 5-0 hole in the first inning. That’s asking a lot for the guys to dig out of. It was a little bit frustrating. I could have got out of the inning giving up one run then I hung a pitch.”
Instead, Moran found himself being nudged to the top of the steps of the Pittsburgh dugout to acknowledge his blast. He briefly tipped his cap to the announced crowd of 30,186, the smallest ever for a home opener since PNC Park opened in 2001 and the franchise’s smallest since drawing 28,985 at Three Rivers Stadium.
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 new-look Pirates have a day off on Tuesday before trying to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1983, a couple weeks before third baseman David Freese — at 34 the oldest player on the roster — was born.
Pirates: Placed RHP Joe Musgrove on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to March 30 with a muscle strain in his right shoulder. Pittsburgh director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said Musgrove, part of the Cole trade, will be shut down for several days. Steven Brault will start in place of Musgrove 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.