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Pirates Giles provided enjoyment between games

Sunday, July 29, 2001

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

If you're going to have one of these Pittsburgh first-time, day-night, take-a-3 1/2-hour-lunch doubleheaders, you might as well send everyone into intermission with a record-setting ninth inning and a winning grand slam.

For Brian Giles, who smacked the historic home run, he assured himself a spot on the clubhouse couch to relax and watch some television. For the workers inside PNC Park, it provided a conversation topic during the excessive down time. For the Houston Astros, it made for a fitful afternoon nap.

"Hopefully, they're all still sitting in the dugout, shocked," Pat Meares said late yesterday afternoon, after the Pirates' 9-8, first-game victory against the Astros.

Only three were, and two of those were on their cell phones.

Giles' 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, alongside a Chicago Cubs seven-run ninth 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 amounted to his fourth homer of the afternoon, Giles figured his first-game theatrics earned him an intermission interlude on the black-leather sofa. "Shower, lie down on the couch. Wish football was on," Giles said of his 210-minute between-game plan. "If I go to sleep, I might not wake up at 7."

Pittsburgh never before endured such a prolonged doubleheader day. Not at Exposition Park. Not at Forbes Field. Not at Three Rivers Stadium. An April 17 snowfall, on the same day a Downtown church service memorialized the late Willie Stargell, postponed an Astros date ... until yesterday.

The Major League Players Association, ever 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.

That explains why, by 4:30 p.m. yesterday, most of the Pirates and Astros were napping. As were ushers on chairs and in air-conditioned restaurants, greeters, customer-service agents, concessionaires, Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh TV types (a dozen of whom reported to work at 8 a.m. for pregame set-up), the Astros batboy in the visitors dugout, you name it.

While they were sleeping ...

Some Pirates went out to eat. Pitchers Josias Manzanillo and Omar Olivares, who yielded four runs in relief but registered the victory, exited about a half-hour after game time. Adam Hyzdu -- whose pinch-hit single sparked anew the ninth-inning rally immediately after Meares' two-run homer made it 8-4 -- joined his family for a meal out, though he returned around 5.

Some Pirates went into the batting cage. Craig Wilson did almost immediately after the first game, his pinch-hit strikeout looking still gnawing at him, and he came back for more hours later. Keith Osik, in his game spikes, and Warren Morris and Kevin Young and Abraham Nunez also worked in the air-conditioned cage next to the clubhouse.

Osik was the first dressed Pirates player to exit the clubhouse, at 6:31 p.m., only to find boss Kevin McClatchy walking down the hallway next to him, asking, "How about that first one?" Coach Bill Virdon walked out at 6:41 with the lineup. Manzanillo and Olivares two minutes later were sliding down the hallway on their spikes.

"OK, we stop now," Manzanillo said.

Intermission concluded minutes later, at 7:06 p.m. Which was six hours after the first one started and 3 1/2 hours after it ended, with an eight-run Astros lead by the close of the second game's fourth inning. A hard day/night, indeed.

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