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Pirates For stunned Astros, wait was worthwhile

Sunday, July 29, 2001

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

This hard day's night took one minute short of nine hours to complete. Of that, the two baseball games took five hours and 29 minutes to compete, which is a relatively peppy pace, considering the 31/3-hour intermission was longer than each game.

In the end, this split-shift doubleheader welcomed to PNC Park 71,272 patrons who consumed somewhere around 3,000 gallons of soda, 15,000 hot dogs and enough stuff to create more than 40 tons of trash and part-time jobs for 200 workers wielding brooms that didn't come to signify a day-night sweep.

The Pirates won the first, 9-8, on a rousing, record-setting, ninth-inning rally. The Houston Astros won the second, 12-3, because their bats -- particularly Jeff Bagwell's -- awoke early from an intermission slumber. Call it a split-shift split.

So what did the players do in the middle of the first day-night doubleheader in Pittsburgh?

Mostly, they wished they had the normal 25-minute break between same-day games.

Afterward, though, the Astros welcomed the wait.

"Probably the best thing that happened was that we didn't have to go right back out there," Bagwell said from the chair in the visiting clubhouse he occupied for most of the 210 minutes between games. "We had around three hours."

"He took full advantage of the rest," Craig Biggio said from his chair in the next stall, huge gobs of ice wrapped around his back, both thighs and left knee.

Bagwell had three RBIs to break his Houston record for production in a month, with 36 so far this July. And there's another game today, just 151/3 hours after they finished playing two. Forget Ernie Banks, this was earning bank -- 71,272 tickets translating into bucks for the Pirates' coffers.

"It was a long day," Bagwell said long after the second game ended. "It really was."

Six and a half hours earlier, Giles smacked a historic grand slam to cap the first game, assuring himself a spot on the clubhouse couch to relax and watch some television before the second. His homer -- wasn't there another famous one at 3:36 p.m. in Pirates history? -- scrawled this rare afternoon into the record books. It tied the National League mark for most runs scored in a two-out, none-on ninth inning, alongside a Chicago Cubs' rally June 29, 1952. It tied the franchise mark for overcoming a six-run deficit after eight innings, achieved by the Pirates June 11, 1933.

For a guy who earlier in the game robbed Houston's Vinny Castilla of what would have been his fourth homer of the afternoon, Giles figured those first-game theatrics earned him an interlude on the Pirates' black leather sofa. "Shower, lie down on the couch. Wish football was on," Giles said of his pre-Game 2 plan. "If I go to sleep, I might not wake up at 7."

The Astros walked off the field in such a daze yesterday afternoon, you wondered if they would awaken at all for the second game. "Not much to do if you don't play cards," Bagwell said of the wait. "Lots of eating going on. Watched the Red Sox game. Guys played dominoes. What else is there to do?"

The Astros revived rather quickly, jumping to an 8-0 lead by the fourth inning. Then again, all the batting-cage work and crossword puzzles and TV and going out to eat by 5:45 p.m.- translated into a bleak nightcap for the Pirates.

The two teams got into this doubleheader because an April 17 snowfall, on the same day a Downtown church service memorialized the late Willie Stargell, postponed the game.

The Major League Players Association, since about 1997, has mandated that each club gets to chose two day-night doubleheaders per season, but after that the decision must go to a vote of the players. "To play three games in 24 hours, that's tough," Giles said.

They come back for more at 1:35 p.m. today.

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