Welcome to the Xavier Paul show! That is how the Pirates game ended anyway. In case you missed it, Paul entered the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied and one out. He hit a grounder to deep first and raced to the bag. RP Jason Motte was slow breaking to the bag, and although the throw clearly beat Paul, Motte’s food did not. Safe!
After one pickoff attempt, Paul immediately stole 2nd on the first pitch and when the throw from CA Gerald Laird got past SS Ryan Theriot, Paul took third. Chase d’Arnaud slapped the next pitch to CF for the game winning sacrifice fly as Xavier Paul beat the throw to home. Three pitches from a tied game and nobody on to an infield single, SB, E, SF, game over. How sweet it is.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the long balls that the high payroll teams usually have involved in their winning records, but the Buccos are a throwback to the pre-steroid era and a reminder that speed can kill too. It is not a fluke. This is how the Pirates have been winning all year. Solid pitching, good defense, and timely hitting. I am not saying the Pirates can win a championship playing this way, but they can attain the elusive .500 record, and compete for the division. Especially when a bit of power returns to the lineup soon in the form of Pedro Alvarez.
It will be interesting to see if today’s victory encourages the brass that this team is worth investing a trade into. I am pretty sure that management is working feverishly to improve the team, but it takes two to tango and lots of other teams are involved in trade talks for the same players the Bucs might be pursuing which makes it more difficult. I do not believe even the most ardent fans wish to see the Pirates depart with any of their top prospects in a bid for a rental player for this season. For the most part, Pirate fans just want to enjoy this ride for as long as possible.
One thing that might get lost in the giddiness of salvaging the final game in this series is the loafing down the first base line that Lyle Overbay was guilty of in the 8th inning. He hit a solid ground ball off the chest of 2B Skip Schumaker which would have made for a close play at first, but Overbay trotted for the few first steps assuming a routine grounder. He was thrown out by a little more than a step. The thing about it to me is a guy hitting .233 has no business loafing it at all. If I were Clint Hurdle, I would bench him against the Braves in the series opener if not outright cut him. If I woke up tomorrow reading that the team recalled Alvarez and dumped Overbay, I would be thrilled. Having Overbay on the team is like having Adam LaRoche all over again.