It was a rollercoaster of a series for Ronny Paulino. In the first game, his defensive miscues were a large factor in the Pirates' 6-4 loss. He rebounded quickly the next night, with a grand slam in the first inning. He added a single and the Pirates won big, 15-1. Today, he doubled in the fifth to start a three-run Pirates rally that tied the game. An inning later, his solo home run gave the Pirates the lead. With the game tied in the bottom of the 11th inning, Paulino came to the plate with runners at first and second and nobody out. He was asked to bunt, and the Cardinals were ready. With first baseman Albert Pujols sprinting towards the plate, Paulino pulled his bat back to swing and took ball one. On the second pitch, Pujols again stormed forward. This time, Paulino followed through with his instructions. He bunted the ball directly to Pujols, who fired to third for the force out. The relay to first beat Paulino, and the Pirates' rally was shut down by a double play. Ryan Doumit now stood at second base with two outs, and Jim Tracy sent Jose Castillo to the plate to pinch-hit for Salomon Torres. Castillo was the final position player available, and with only John Grabow and Jonah Bayliss left in the bullpen, I was getting nervous.
But I should not have worried. After quickly falling behind 0-2, Castillo lined one into right-center. Adam Kennedy's throw was a few feet up the first base line, and Ryan Doumit scored standing up to win the game. At that point, those of us in attendance had the pleasure of watching the Pirates mob Castillo near the pitcher's mound. My favorite part of a walk-off win is seeing the players gleefully celebrating like small children. The innocence of the scene is indescribably wonderful.
Shane Youman is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. Today, he did exactly what he always seems to do. He was not spectacular, but he went five innings, allowed three runs, and kept the team in the game. There is something enjoyable about watching him go to the mound, throw below average stuff at Major League hitters, and be effective. He just might be the perfect number five starter.
The Pirates took two out of three from the Cardinals. You can't argue with that right now.