Minggu, 05 Juni 2011

'Overpay'? No way

Sunday, June 05, 2011
Clueless one day, the brightest light on fireworks night the next.

Is baseball a grand game or what?

A few hours after beating himself up worse than any of his many critics in town, Pirates first baseman Lyle Overbay came to the plate Saturday night in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies' J.C. Romero with a chance to hit for the Pirates' first cycle in more than seven years.
Needing a home run, the man who has hit 127 of 'em during his nine-year big-league career struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch. It hardly seemed to matter to Overbay or to the sellout crowd of 39,441, the largest at PNC Park. The fireworks a few minutes later still seemed a little more spectacular than usual because, for the second consecutive night, the Pirates had beaten the National League's best team, this time 6-3. They won, in substantial part, because of Overbay, who came in hitting .229.

A clueless .229.

Hey, that's the word Overbay used to describe himself before the game. Not that I argued.

Here's something else we agreed on: Overbay had this night coming.

He had helped the Pirates beat the Phillies, 2-1, in 12 innings Friday night by making a strong diving play to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring in the 10th. You won't see many better plays all season. But he had done little to help the club with his bat. It wasn't just that sickly (my word) .229 average. It was 5 home runs and 21 RBIs in 192 at-bats. That hardly seemed like enough, especially after the Pirates invested $5 million in him -- an enormous number for them -- as a free agent during the off-season.

Some were calling him "Overpay." OK, a lot were.

"I haven't heard much of that; I really haven't," Overbay said. "I've heard worse in my career."

On this night, Overbay heard only cheers, at least from those in the park who weren't rooting for the Phillies.

"It felt good just putting a good swing on the ball throughout the whole game," he said. "That's the key to it for me."

Overbay got lucky in the first inning. He bounced what appeared to be a fair ball down the first-base line with two outs and looked to make the Pirates' third out. But home plate umpire Joe West overruled first base umpire Angel Hernandez and called it foul.

"I thought it was fair, but I'll take it," Overbay said.

Take it and run with it, actually. He watched three balls from Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, then doubled in a run off the Clemente Wall in right field to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

Overbay got lucky again in the fourth inning when he sliced a ball to left field and ended up with a triple when left fielder Raul Ibanez slipped, allowing the ball to roll to the wall.

"I know that probably was going to be a single," Overbay said.
He scored that inning on an infield groundout to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

Overbay then singled up the middle in the sixth inning to set up his cycle opportunity.

"Obviously, I was aware of it," he said. "But Romero is tough. Everything he throws has so much sink. It's hard to elevate anything against him. I was trying, though."

And Overbay's .240 average this morning?

Still nothing to write home about for a .274 lifetime hitter but not quite so clueless or sickly.

Actually, Overbay said he was "clueless" the first two months of last season. He was hitting .212 for the Toronto Blue Jays on June 1 and "was worried my career was over ... I was just getting beaten by pitches."

But Overbay said this season has been even tougher for him: "The toughest it's ever been. I don't know, maybe I've been trying to do too much."

It's nice to think this night was the start of something much better for Overbay. He regrouped last season to hit .282 in June and .301 in July. Who knows where the Pirates might be on Aug. 1 if he can do the same thing here? This latest win nudged them close to .500 again at 28-29.

"We're going to be a lot better than what we are right now," Overbay said. "That's why I came here. I was aware of the Pirates' history. I knew they had been through a lot of losses. I wanted to be a part of changing that. That's going to be something special."

The two wins against the Phillies eliminated any little doubt that might have been in Overbay's mind that the Pirates are on the right track. A win today against Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay, a sweep of the Phillies and a 29-29 record might convince a lot more of us.

"I thought they were huge wins, especially after the way we lost in New York [Thursday]," Overbay said, referencing the 9-8 loss to the Mets after the Pirates blew a 7-0 lead.

"That shows the maturity of this team. Everybody was able to shrug it off and turn the page. It was just one game. I think Matt Diaz was the first to stand up and say, 'This one's over. It's still been a great [4-3] road trip. Now let's go home and play some good baseball.'

"I think it was important for the young guys to hear that."

Maybe one of the older guys, too.

Overbay came home.

And he's playing some pretty good baseball.

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11156/1151583-87-0.stm#ixzz1OOu7tlbb

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