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Big League Stew

The Juice: Pirates partying like 1992 after taking back first place

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Nine innings and nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. Bucco dawn: Many of you still don't take the Pittsburgh Pirates seriously. That they haven't posted a winning record since 1992 might have something to do with it. Like with rookie Chase D'Arnaud in the above photo, the Pirates of 2011 just put their head down and keep on winning.

Unlike the cynics, the standings acknowledge the Pirates as the first-place team in the NL Central after they beat the Reds 2-0 on Monday night. A loss by Milwaukee, along with St. Louis being idle, helped to bump the Bucs into the top spot all by themselves.

Right-hander Charlie Morton shut down Cincinnati for five innings amid delays for rain and lightning, and Pittsburgh's bullpen did the rest. Morton has allowed one run against the Reds in 23 innings this season and has a 4.56 ERA against the rest of the league. He got some major help from D'Arnaud with this play to wriggle from a jam in the first inning.

Pittsburgh, which took first place Friday night before falling out the next day, hasn't been alone in first this late since Barry Bonds in left, Andy Van Slyke in center and an extensive platoon in right manned the outfield at Three Rivers Stadium.

2. Indians-Pirates World Series!: Speaking of disbelief, the Cleveland Indians keep on truckin' despite a lack of confidence coming from the outside world. Behind strong pitching performances by David Huff and Fausto Carmona, they swept the Twins 5-2 and 6-3 in a doubleheader at Target Field.

3. Iraqis. Dune. Desert planet: The City of Chicago took all of Roy Halladay's water. The Phillies' ace allowed three runs and seven hits over four innings before leaving because of dehydration/the heat in the Cubs 6-1 victory. He expects to make his next start. To get ready, he will throw a bullpen on the Sun.

4. Sing it loud: Giants' right-hander Ryan Vogelsong became the NL's ERA leader — at 2.02 — after shutting out the Dodgers in a 5-0 victory at AT&T Park. Not even a chat with Joe Montana could motivate Matt Kemp to make contact in the eighth inning. {YSP:MORE}

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5. Stand there and score: The Yankees waited out rookie left-hander Alex Torres, who issued three walks (one on purpose) to push across New York's go-ahead run in the ninth, sending the Yankees to a 5-4 victory at Tampa Bay. Russell Mustache, I mean Russell Martin, got the game-winning RBI, if those existed anymore.

6. Crazy eights: The Red Sox used the old eight-run eighth inning trick to beat the Orioles 15-10. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Darnell McDonald drove in three runs apiece. (Not all in the eight inning, but spread out.)

7. They call it Hotlanta for a reason. (It might not be because of the weather, though.): The Braves brought to Denver the stifling weather of the Deep South, and Derek Lowe said he felt right at home in Atlanta's 7-4 victory against the Rockies.

"Playing in Atlanta, you can't really go any place that's hotter than Atlanta," he said. "I think it's an advantage."

8. What's the opposite of a submariner?: Rookie Josh Collmenter, he of the overhand smash delivery, allowed three hits over eight innings in Arizona's 3-0 victory against Milwaukee.

9. Clean up your own yard: Behind lefty Mark Buehrle, the White Sox beat the Royals 5-2 to improve to 11-17 against the AL Central. Such a poor record against their own division is why they're still under .500 overall.

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