And just like everything else with the perpetually rebuilding club, the learning curve is steep.
The Cubs were on the wrong side of two replay reviews in Monday’s 1-0 opening loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, including an overturned call in the top of the 10th that allowed Neil Walker to hit a game-ending homer off Carlos Villanueva in the bottom of the inning.
Chicago’s Emilio Bonifacio singled with one out in the top of the 10th and was ruled safe when he dived back to first on an attempted pickoff by reliever Bryan Morris.
“I’m still trying to figure out what the ‘clear and convincing evidence’ is supposed to be,” Renteria said. “It’s a work in progress. They have a lot of people looking at those videos in New York, so they must get it right.”
The largest regular season crowd in the 14-season history of PNC Park (39,833) roared when Bonifacio was ruled out and the din only grew louder when Walker smacked a Villanueva (0-1) changeup into the right field seats.
“This one feels pretty special,” Walker said. “This is a special day for this team, this organization. We’ve come a long way.”
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.
“I was happy with the way I kept the ball down in the strike zone,” Samardzija said. “It helped to get the double plays because they made the overall outing look a little better than it really was.”
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.
Pittsburgh starter Francisco 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.
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.
Renteria challenged a double-play following a demonstrative “safe” call by Samardzija following a poorly executed sacrifice bunt attempt. First base umpire Bob Davidson’s decision was confirmed on replay.