MLB: Jones’ 2 HRs lead Pirates past Dodgers 11-5
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH — If only every day could be opening day for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Garrett Jones homered in his first two at-bats, pinch-hitter Ryan Church doubled home three runs and the Pittsburgh Pirates started the new season the way they wound down 2009 by roughing up the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-5 on Monday.
On a day when the weather was more like a typical Southern California day in early April than one in Pittsburgh — sunshine, temperatures in the mid 70s — the Pirates played more like the two-time defending NL West champion Dodgers and vice versa.
The Pirates, coming off a record-setting 17th consecutive losing season, won on opening day for the fourth season in a row as Ryan Doumit added a three-run homer in the eighth off reliever George Sherrill. Doumit also doubled and scored twice.
Jones, only the second major leaguer to hit 20-plus homers after not hitting one until at least July 1, went to spring training getting asked whether his 21 homers in half a season as a 28-year-old rookie were an anomaly. His first two at-bats suggest they weren't.
Jones' two-run drive estimated at 456 feet bounced into the Allegheny River beyond the right-field stands following Akinori Iwamura's leadoff walk in the first. Jones followed that with an opposite-field shot off Vicente Padilla that found the front row of left-field stands, putting Pittsburgh up 3-2.
The Pirates were forced to yank starter Zach Duke in the fifth after only 79 pitches because they are batting the pitcher eighth, and Duke was due up with a one in and the bases loaded.
Church, in his first at-bat with Pittsburgh, made the strategy pay off by hitting a bases-clearing double to right off reliever Ramon Ortiz. Ronny Cedeno, batting ninth, finished off the five-run inning with an RBI single.
Duke (1-0) gave up two runs on seven hits over five innings.
The Dodgers drew closer with a three-run seventh that included Manny Ramirez's two-run single, but Brendan Donnelly struck out Russell Martin and Andre Ethier to end the eighth with runners on first and third and Los Angeles trailing 8-5.
Padilla (0-1), who came to camp expecting to be the No. 4 starter and pitched like one, gave up seven runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings for his first loss with Los Angeles. He went 4-0 down the stretch last season after being picked up from Texas.
The Dodgers are 24-11 in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001, but have lost four of five there. They dropped three of four and failed on successive days to clinch the NL West there during the final 10 days of last season, when the Pirates had lost 23 of 26 and were en route to losing 99 games.
The Pirates have cut payroll — again — since then, and their estimated $34 million in salaries are at their lowest level since the bargain-basement $10 million team of 1997. Their payroll is about that of 1992, when the Pirates last had a winning record and won their division.
NOTES: The Dodgers outhit the Pirates 12-10 but left 10 on base. ... Even after winning their opener, the Pirates lost at least 94 games in each of the last three seasons. ... The teams hadn't opened against each other since 1955, when the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn. ... Dodgers RHP Ramon Troncoso left the club to be with his wife for the birth of daughter Isabella. ... Church is 3-for-7 with five RBIs against Ramon Ortiz. ... After Thursday, the Dodgers will have played seven of their last 12 regular season games in Pittsburgh. ... OF Brandon Moss cleared waivers and was sent outright by Pittsburgh to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... The crowd of 39,024 was the fourth largest at PNC Park. ... Jones is the sixth Pirates hitter to homer twice on opening day and the second in three seasons. Xavier Nady did it in 2008. Jones finished 2 for 4 with a walk.