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Pirates Pittsburgh native Casey paces Reds over Pirates, 8-2

Monday, April 09, 2001

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Cincinnati Reds probably wish the Pittsburgh Pirates would open a new ballpark every season.

The Reds ruined the Pirates' first game in PNC Park on Monday just as they did the inaugural game in Three Rivers Stadium 31 years before, winning 8-2 behind Sean Casey's two-run homer and five RBIs.

Just as in their 3-2 victory on July 16, 1970, at Three Rivers, a Reds first baseman hit the first homer in Pittsburgh's new ballyard -- then it was Tony Perez, this time it was Casey, a native Pittsburgher from suburban Upper St. Clair.

Casey, who estimates he once saw 15-20 games a season in Three Rivers Stadium, didn't take long to make himself at home in the NL's smallest ballpark by hitting a two-run homer in the first off Todd Ritchie (0-2).

The drive followed an emotional pregame salute to Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, who died earlier in the day at age 61 following a long illness.

Casey, who went 4-for-4 and reached base five times, seemed especially moved by the Stargell tribute. He responded with a Stargell-like drive to the right-center power alley for his second homer of the season.

It was the Reds' second game in four days in a new ballpark -- they also played the debut game in Milwaukee's Miller Park on Friday, losing 5-4 -- and their first road victory following an 0-3 start.

The Reds aren't the most accommodating visitors when it comes to opening new ballparks, also winning in the first game in Dodger Stadium in 1962.

The Pirates lost their eighth consecutive home opener no matter the venue -- they haven't won since 1993 -- by falling behind 3-0 to Reds rookie Chris Reitsma (1-0), who shut them out on three hits until the seventh. By then, Casey had added an RBI single following Michael Tucker's double in the sixth.

Casey added a two-run double in a four-run ninth against reliever Marc Wilkins, who also threw a run-scoring wild pitch.

Aramis Ramirez, who hit three homers Sunday in Houston, and Kevin Young singled to start the seventh. Pat Meares followed by hitting a ball to the mound that bounced awkwardly off Reitsma's right knee, loading the bases.

Reliever Dennys Reyes came on to get pinch-hitter John Vander Wal to hit an apparent double-play grounder, but third baseman Aaron Boone mishandled the ball, scoring Ramirez and keeping the bases loaded.

Reyes recovered to get pinch-hitter Enrique Wilson to ground into the double play he thought he had the batter before, scoring Young. Tucker preserved the one-run lead, making a nice sliding catch of Adrian Brown's liner to center field to end the inning.

The Reds added a run in the eighth on Boone's run-scoring single off the glove of third baseman Ramirez.

Ken Griffey Jr, still out of the lineup because of a sore hamstring, missed a chance to increase the lead by flying out to center as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded.

The crowd of 36,954, though short of the listed capacity of 38,353, was a standing room-sellout because the Pirates distributed several thousand complimentary tickets.

Notes: Just as Friday in Milwaukee, a president threw out the first pitch. It wasn't President Bush, who did the honors in Miller Park, but Pirates president Kevin McClatchy. ... Baseball commissioner Bud Selig attended. ... Fans stood for several minutes, applauding, following a pregame video tribute to Stargell. ... Stargell hit the Pirates' first homer in Three Rivers, also on July 16, 1970. ... Reitsma was the starter but didn't get the decision in his major league debut as the Pirates rallied to beat the Reds 6-5 Wednesday. ... The Pirates also lost the first game in Forbes Field in 1909, 3-2 to the Cubs. ... Pittsburgh turned three double plays and now has 11 in six games.

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