PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker understands not everybody is going to be a fan of Major League Baseball's expanded replay system, which threatens to slow down a sport that already struggles to be played with any sort of urgency.
Funny, there weren't many critics to be found on Monday at PNC Park.
Walker homered off Carlos Villanueva leading off the 10th inning, and the Pirates benefited from an overturned to call to beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0.
The Pittsburgh native turned on a Villanueva changeup and sent it sailing over the Clemente Wall in right field for the first walk-off of his career and the first by the Pirates on opening day since Bob Bailey homered off San Francisco's Juan Marichal in a 1-0, 10-inning victory in 1965.
"This one feels pretty special," Walker said. "This is a special day for this team, this organization. We've come a long way."
So has the game.
After spending decades fighting the advances of technology, Major League Baseball has embraced the concept. Many calls can be challenged this season under an expanded system, and both teams wasted little time putting umpires to work.
The Cubs made history by initiating the first review under the new guidelines. Chicago manager Rick Renteria challenged a double-play call in the top of the fifth following a demonstrative "safe" call by Jeff Samardzija following a poorly executed sacrifice bunt attempt. First base umpire Bob Davidson's decision was confirmed on replay.
"It was a combination of Samardzjia's reaction and what we were looking at," Renteria said. "We're still trying to figure out what clear and compelling evidence is. It's a work in progress."
Chicago's luck with replay didn't get any better later.
A safe call on a pickoff attempt by Bryan Morris (1-0) with one out in the top of the 10th was reversed after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle requested a replay, sending Chicago's Emilio Bonifacio back to the dugout after a delay of 2½ minutes.
"Most of the time on pickoffs, it's got to be very noticeable for the umpire," Morris said. "Those bang-bang plays are always going to go to the runner. I guess that's why it's good to have replay."
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