Saturday, May 31, 2008

It must be raindrops...

Pittsburgh must love playing in the rain. The Pirates carried over their ninth inning lumber from last night through a driving rain squall and pummeled a couple of the Card's minor-league call-up arms, 14-4.

How about Luis Rivas, who must be channeling Pops lately, blasting his first ever grand salami? Freddie Sanchez and Ronny Paulino, another unlikely duo of sluggers, added two run shots and the X-Man unloaded the bases with a three-run double.

Paul Maholm gave the Bucs their third consecutive quality start, going 6-2/3 innings and giving up 1 run, 4 hits, and striking out 5. He's now 3-5 with a 4.74 ERA. The win was Maholm's first on the road since last August, a span of six starts. He came into the game 0-4 and with an 8.57 ERA away from PNC Park.

Pittsburgh was in cruise control the entire night. The only suspenseful moments were when the thunder boomers and rain threatened early on, but after the fifth, even that little bit of mystery was inconsequential. The Bucs finally had an easy night.

Luis Rivas is still a work in progress at SS, but it looks like the work is paying off for him. He seems much more comfortable both at the plate and in the field, even though he did boot another one this rainy evening.

Joey Bats appears to have held off the Doug Mientkiewicz challenge, as Mientkiewicz is hitting just .205, even worse than Bautista, who went 4-5 tonight for his first career four-hit game and is up to .247.

Nate McLouth did go to the head of the class on the lineup card tonight, and Sanchez moved to the three spot. We'll never pretend to understand how John Russell fills in an order, although it's sure been working so far this year.

The last 10 Pittsburgh runs came with two outs. The Bucs were nothing but clutch tonight.

The big question is the condition of Jack Splat's wheel. He was scratched from the lineup about an hour before the game, hopefully as a bad-weather, day game after nightcap precaution.

On the Pirate front: Jack Splat was visibly pained by his balky calf for a couple of innings of yesterday's game, wearing frustration all over his face but hanging in for seven innings. Wilson favored the leg while running, and made a couple of throws flat footed instead of stepping into them.

He said it was just tightness that he has to play through for the time being. Maybe it was just a cramp caused by the muggy St. Louis weather. We hope that's all.

>Ryan Doumit's thumb injury was supposed to give Ronny Paulino a chance to strut his stuff. But in the 14 games since then, including 11 starts, Paulino has hit just .174 with 2 RBIs, and opened a wide door for Raul Chavez to hawk his wares instead. Chavez' play is making Paulino eminently movable as they jockey for a back-up spot to Doumit.

>We spoke too soon when we said Nate McLouth was gonna replace Freddie Sanchez and his .239 average at the top of the order. The FSN guys speculated that the move is on hold until Doumit gets back in action. As for us, we're keeping quiet until we pry our foot out of our mouth.

On the minor league front:
Hey, a pretty good day for the wanna-be Buccos. Three of the four teams won, with only low A Hickory coming up with the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, the teams in the system are like the big guys in one aspect - none of them have a winning record.

>RHP Jimmy Barthmaier made his Class AAA debut after being called up from Altoona to take Bryan Bullington's place, and it was a good one. He won, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in seven innings. He struck out 4 and walked 1 in the victory.

Barthmaier will return to the Curve after the start (the Pirate suits have been true to their word about advancing guys too quickly), and the Indians are expected to seek a free agent to fill the final rotation spot. Anyone have Jared Wright's phone number?

>At Lynchburg, LHP Danny Moskos (3-3, 5.22), last year's top pick, gave up 1 run on 5 hits in five innings, ending a streak of tough starts. He struck out 4 and walked 4.

RF Jamie Romak, who Pittsburgh got as part of the LaRoche deal, hit his 8th home run, his fourth in 4 games, and went 2 for 2 with two walks. His average is up to .287.

>C Andrew Walker is finally beginning to find his swing at Hickory. He went 3 for 4 and is now batting .250. 3B Bobby Spain singled to extend his hitting streak to 20 games.

On the draft front: Keith Law of Scouts Inc. says: "The Rays are down to (Buster) Posey and Tim Beckham, equally strong choices. Posey probably will cost them more but reach the majors faster, while Beckham is the better long-term prospect.

The Pirates' decision also is down to Posey and Beckham, plus (Pedro) Alvarez, whom team president Frank Coonelly is said to covet in order to send a message to fans that the decision to pass on Matt Wieters last year won't be repeated.

However, Alvarez scuffled in front of the Pirates' key decision-makers at the SEC tournament, and they might be waffling on their earlier commitment to him."

An old man's musing: Smack a home run, trot around the bases and point to the heavens. Drop a bunt, high five everyone in sight. Strike out the seven hitter, hit your knees and start fist pumpin'. We call it the ESPN syndrome.

But we'd really like to see how long the celebration would last if Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, and Don Drysdale were still on the mound. Not long, we'd wager - just to the next at bat.

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