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Big League Stew

Pittsburgh’s Xavier Paul has probably had better days

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Don't question the moxie of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On the heels of two potentially back-breaking losses at the hands of the Atlanta Braves, the Battlin' Bucs rebounded Thursday night with a hard-fought 5-2 win at Turner Field, earning a four-game series split and the respect of their foes in the process.

"They're a good team. They're a real good team," Braves catcher David Ross said. "They're playing well and they know it. They don't beat themselves like they used to."

Ross is on the money. The 2011 Pirates, for the most part, play good, clean and fundamentally sound baseball. That's a big step forward.

Now, when it comes to beating themselves UP, it's an entirely different story. The physical comedy aspect is still there. It's just timed better. For an example of this, just look at outfielder Xavier Paul, who would likely just as soon erase Thursday night from the history books if it meant his bumps and bruises would also disappear.

And believe me, Paul collected quite a few. The first of which came in the bottom of the second inning on a pop fly to short left-center field. Paul charged the ball from his left-field position as shortstop Ronny Cedeno ran out like a wide receiver. Cedeno actually made the tough over-the-shoulder grab, but then collided with a sliding Paul at pretty close to full speed (pictured above).

Watch Cedeno and Paul collide

Paul was slow to his feet but remained in the game. Had he known what was still to come, he may have taken that opportunity to exit early.

After a 47-minute rain delay that was hopefully used to dust himself off and possibly receive treatment, Paul would be Pittsburgh's first batter when played resumed in the fifth inning. On an 0-2 pitch from Derek Lowe, he ripped the ball in the right-field corner (his lone hit in five at-bats) for what looked to be a lead-off double. {YSP:MORE}

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That's what Paul was thinking as he charged out of the box. Unfortunately, the soggy field and Paul's cleats didn't cooperate. As he rounded first, he lost his balance, stumbled, and face-planted about 15 feet from the base. Shaken by the fall, he got to his feet and slowly made it back to first base safely with a long and painful single.

Not quite the night Paul had envisioned when he arrived at the park Thursday afternoon.

A few Pirates that never seem to have rough days are 2011 All-Stars Kevin Correia, Andrew McCutchen and Joel Hanrahan. Each had starring roles in this win. Correia was the victor on the mound, picking up win No. 12. McCutchen hit a big two-run homer in the ninth that extended the lead to three. And then Hanrahan took it from there, closing the door on the Braves to earn save No. 30 with a scoreless ninth.

Oh yeah, but not before David Ross drove a double to deep left-center field that led our friend Xavier Paul into a head-on collision with the outfield wall.

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He survived that one, too.

Tough kid. Good team. Fun baseball.

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