PEDRO ALVAREZ hit his second home run in as many days, and Garrett Jones knocked in three runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Bucs took three of four from the reigning NL Champs, and have now won five of their last seven.
Evan Meek picked up the win, his fourth of the year, in his one inning of relief, and Octavio Dotel threw a scoreless ninth for his 19th save of the season. Starter Jeff Karstens allowed nine hits and five runs in his six innings of work to come away with a no-decision. Delwyn Young and Jones each drove in two runs during the Pirates' momentum-turning six-run 7th inning to aid the cause.
The Pirates have a day off before they take to the road on Tuesday night, as Brad Lincoln (4.65, 1-2) takes on Wandy Rodriguez (5.30, 5-10) in Houston
My take: Quietly, the Pirates have built a little bit of momentum after seemingly hitting rock bottom yet again, and it's welcome news around these parts. Pedro Alvarez is starting to show some power, the starters have had a few nice outings, and for once, the team appeared to actually have fun playing the game on Sunday. Their next opponent, Houston, is having nearly as bad a season as the Pirates, so this upcoming series could provide a rare opportunity for some real momentum.
EVAN MEEK was named as the Pirates' representative for this year's All-Star Game, to be played July 13 in Anaheim.
While a case could certainly be made for Andrew McCutchen, no one is complaining with the choice of Meek, who has had an outstanding season, with a 0.98 ERA, 4-2 record, 42 strikeouts, 11 walks and a .178 opponents' batting average in a staff-high 37 appearances. He is the first Pirate middle-reliever to get an All-Star nod since Mace Brown in 1938.
My take: Meek has emerged as a good story in a sea of unfortunate Pirate tales, and he certainly didn't take the usual path to get where he is. This team always seems to strike gold in the bullpen, and it looks like Neal Huntington has unearthed another gem in Meek, a 2007 Rule 5 draft pick via Tampa Bay.
ROB NIEDERMAYER is the next veteran on the Penguins' radar, according to the PG's Dave Molinari. Niedermayer would potentially fill the third-line center role in the event that either Jordan Staal or Evgeni Malkin is moved to winger, as expected. If things don't work out with Niedermayer, other possibilities on the market include Dominic Moore, Jeff Halpern, John Madden, and Ryan Johnson, many of whom are very familiar with the Pens.
My take: Niedermayer isn't expected to bring much offense to the table (he hasn't scored 20 goals or more since 1995-96), but the numbers could work (he earned $1 million last year for New Jersey) and he brings the presence of an elder statesman, for whatever that's worth to this particular team. If Jordan or Geno make the move to wing, someone's going to have to fill that hole, and given the Pens' budget, it's going to be someone the likes of Niedermayer.
TAKERU KOBAYASHI, one of the world's most prolific competitive eaters, was arrested yesterday when he showed up and rushed the stage at the conclusion of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Championship in New York, once again won by Joey Chestnut. There was apparently a contractual dispute between Kobayashi and Major League Eating that caused the impasse. And no, I'm not making that up.
My take: The only loser in this was competitive eating fans. Chestnut was not pushed by any of the also-rans making up the field, therefore eliminating any of the drama of previous competitions. He ate "only" 54 hot dogs this year, which is still a lot, but not when you consider he downed 68 at the 2009 event. The Penguins need the Flyers, Batman needs the Joker, and Chestnut needs Kobayashi. Arch-rivals are a necessary evil in life.