Man, this one had it all - a five-hit performance by Neil Walker, two homers in two innings by Pedro Alvarez, including a grand-slam, an everybody-bats inning in the first, a temper tantrum by and ejection of the usually-comatose John Russell, and even a caught stealing by the Pirates defense (even if the runner had to slide past the bag for Erik Kratz to pull it off). Even if the Pirates almost blew a nine-run first-inning lead, this was one of the coolest games of the year.
Although I think that the problems people have with Russell's demeanor are greatly overstated, it was a lot of fun, on a purely visceral level, to see him get really mad. And it's also been great to see so much offense. This is the first time in a while where I really want to stop watching what I'm doing and watch some of these guys hit. It's great now that the Pirates have several hitters (Alvarez, Walker, Lastings Milledge, and even Jose Tabata, who has really hit the ball hard a lot) who we can feel confident about, in addition to Andrew McCutchen.
A couple notes:
-P- Regarding the Paul-Maholm-to-the-Dodgers rumors, I'm not sure I'd spend much time worrying about this just yet. The Dodgers don't have a great farm system, and while I'm sure the Pirates are open to trading anyone, I'm not sure they'd really want to trade Maholm. As much as the rebuilding plan involves trading veterans, they need Maholm, who has been really the only reliable arm in the rotation this year. Also, there should be no rush to trade him, since the Bucs control him at reasonable prices through 2012.
-P- The Post-Gazette announces some Latin American signings, including some dollar figures, which are helpful, since without those it's hard to tell what these signings mean. Pitcher Isaac Sanchez and outfielder Miguel de Aza both got over $100,000, so watch out for them in the Gulf Coast League in about two years.
-P- The Pirates are close to signing 13th-round draft pick Chris Kirsch. This isn't much of a surprise, since he isn't committed to a major college program. Kirsch is 18 and hasn't done much competitive pitching, so if the Pirates sign him, it could be a couple years before he really gets anywhere.
-P- Here's a really good article on Evan Chambers that makes clear that both he and the Pirates understand that in order to make it to the bigs, he's going to have to be more aggressive at the plate. If you take a look at the picture, you can also see why I've said he's a pretty small dude.