Paul Maholm looked human today, and the Cubs dumped the Bucs 5-1 at Wrigley this afternoon.
Chicago didn't exactly bludgeon Maholm, but used a double steal in one inning (Chris Gomez, at 1B, was playing behind the runner, inviting the steal), a wild pitch in another, and a double, bouncer to the right side, and sac fly in yet another to manufacture three runs. It was text book work.
Pittsburgh had second and third with one out and bases loaded in another inning with two outs. It got a come-backer, foul pop to the catcher, and strike out. You can't win by coming up empty in those situations.
John Russell is going to have to break out the National League book with the lineup he has now if Pittsburgh is to put up an attack. Steals, hit and runs, aggressive baserunning, hitting behind the runner, and working the count will be key to an offense minus its best RBI and power men, Jay Bay and Xavier Nady. It's back to small ball.
It's a sudden transition, but one the Pirate coaches have to adopt. A week or two ago, a 5-1 deficit after five innings was a bump in the road. Now, it's Mt. Everest.
And there's no cavalry riding to the rescue. Freddie Sanchez should be back, maybe by tomorrow, but it will be at least 10 days until Adam LaRoche returns, at very best. We hope the Pirate confidence at the plate hasn't evaporated by then.
The locker room leadership has to turn over, too. Not only did the Pirates lose a pair of mentors, but old heads like Jack Splat and Sanchez may see the handwriting on the wall. The suits are blowing up the team. Ryan Doumit and Nate McLouth have to step up to fill the void, and now.