Ah, the home field advantage. The brutal afternoon sun got in Alfonso Soriano's eyes, and Nate McLouth's two-out fly ball bounced of his wrist, scoring Brian Bixler with the tying run and setting the stage for another Jay Bay extra inning game winner.
The story line was pretty simple. Paul Maholm went 8 innings and threw 121 pitches, and after last night's extravaganza, every pitch counted. His final line wasn't so hot, but if you take away the third inning, when he gave up 4 of his 5 runs and 4 of his 8 hits, he did a pretty creditable job (were it only that easy.)
Luis Rivas hit two home runs (no, that's not a misprint) and the X-Man added another as the Bucs outlasted the Cubs in eleven, 6-5. Frankie Osoria and Damaso Marte shut the Chi-town bats down for the final three innings, and the Pirates actually took a series from Chicago. It was even sweeter as they finally got to their nemesis, old Bucco Jon Lieber, thanks to Bay.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bay is the first major leaguer to decide extra-inning games with hits on successive days since Albert Belle of Cleveland homered in the 14th inning on Aug. 30, 1995, and again in the 10th inning a day later, against Toronto.
Now let the Memorial Day fun begin...
On the Pirate front: We were wondering what was up yesterday when the usually manic Doug Mientkiewicz jogged home to tie the game instead of chugging down the line with his usual all-out, elbows akimbo gallop.
It ends up the Mientkiewicz wasn't in the lineup due to the flu, and he had to be summoned from the clubhouse to pinch hit in the ninth. Because the Pirates were out of position players at that point, he was forced to stay in the game, too.
"He was about as sick as you can be," John Russell told MLB.com. "I thought he was going to pass out a couple times on the bench. He gutted it out and played. ... He felt terrible, so I can't say enough about him staying in the game."
What's that say about Jose Bautista, outplayed by a flu-ridden bench player?
Another guy that deserves some love is Jay Bay. After suffering the slings and arrows of the fans last year without once making an excuse, and while bearing the public brunt of the new suits' "underachiever" charges, he quietly went out this season and showed just how much his knee injury had taken from his game.
He never used his bum knee as a crutch against the criticism, and even went out and played 145 games on it. Quiet guys can be tough guys, too. The now healthy Bay could easily become the NL Comeback Player of the Year.
On the minor league front: Evan Meek has thrown three times for Altoona since the Bucs got him back from the Rays. He's gone 5 innings, striking out 4 and walking 2 with a 3.60 ERA.
On the hot stove league front: Indians GM Mark Shapiro will soon be talking to every team in an effort to upgrade his roster, according to MLB Trade Rumors. While Shapiro concedes that major trades don't usually occur so early in the season, he's already apparently ready to consider all options:
"We will get on the phone with every team in the league, although sometimes a trade of magnitude comes down the road. We will explore everything at this point."
If you recall, the Pirates and Indians almost pulled the trigger on a Jay Bay deal back in December. Could be interesting, especially with Bay's value again approaching 2005-06 levels.
On the ex-Pirate front: The Dodgers DFA'ed Esteban Loaiza today. The team now has ten days to either trade him or release him unless Loaiza accepts a demotion to AAA Las Vegas.
Loaiza is guaranteed at least $7M in 2008, plus has a $375K buyout on a 2009 option. The 36-year old righty has been on the DL since early May due to a shoulder problem.
He was 27-28 for the Bucs from 1995-1998 at the start of his career. Loaiza has been fairly ineffective since 2005, when he was a Nat. In 14 years, he has a 126-114 record with a 4.65 ERA.