Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Maholm leads Pirates to first home victory

Ronny Paulino gave Paul Maholm some support with his second inning homerun

Beginning a 16-game stretch against only NL Central teams, the Pirates desperately needed a strong performance to lift the team's confidence a bit. Enter Paul Maholm. The young lefty pitched as if he had a plane to catch, completing a three-hit shutout in just under an hour. He needed only 99 pitches to finish off the Astros, and gave the bullpen the night off as the Bucs cruised to a 3-0 victory. Jack Wilson, Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino led the offense, as the home crowd witnessed their first victory in 2007.

This was an absolute gem from Maholm. He had the Astros off balance all night, and kept the infield alert with ground ball after ground ball. The defense was solid, especially third baseman Jose Bautista. Bautista has looked very comfortable at the hot corner, and I'm not sure anybody even remembers that Jose Castillo still plays for the team.

Jack Wilson continued his hot start to the season, doubling and scoring twice. Wilson now has an OPS of .814 on the year, and looks like he is, in fact, a capable number two hitter. Of course, he has a history of being a very streaky hitter. So I will keep my enthusiasm under control until we get deeper into the season.

Jason Bay looks like he might be about ready to explode. While April has been a relatively lousy month for him over the years, he has a career OPS of 1.018 in May. And if I remember correctly, Bay hit 22 homeruns in a three-day span last May. If we have been slightly below average without much production from Bay, maybe we can get over the "mediocre hump" when he gets rolling. It would also be delightful if he got hot during this vital stretch of games that began last night.

Adam LaRoche is a different story. He continued to struggle, going o for 4 with two more K's. He will start hitting eventually, but it would be nice if that started soon.

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