Jack Wilson played last night like a kid who'd been let out of the corner of a classroom where he'd been told to sit -- for five days.
The shortstop had two hits, scored two runs, made one above-average defensive play and another that was way above average and helped Paul Maholm and the Pirates to a 4-2 victory against the run-challenged Chicago White Sox.
Closer-designate Matt Capps escaped a thorny ninth inning -- four baserunners, one run -- to record his fourth save
Wilson, banished to the dugout in favor of Jose Castillo after a poor game last Saturday in Yankee Stadium, played last night because Freddy Sanchez had the flu.
"He had a tremendous game," manager Jim Tracy said.
Tremendous enough to start again tonight?
"He was really good," Tracy said.
Wilson scored his first run after lining a one-out double down the left-field line in the second inning.
Maholm drove a ball to fairly deep center field. Wilson went halfway to third base, then seeing Luis Terrero would catch the ball while retreating, Wilson raced back and tagged up at second, thus advancing to third base.
Wilson trotted home on Jose Bautista's single to right.
Wilson was a catalyst again in the fourth inning.
He led off with a single through the middle. Maholm got a bunt down on a 1-2 pitch that moved Wilson to second. Bautista, batting .326 in the leadoff spot, lined a run-scoring single to left.
Wilson, who's had his problems in the field, contributed defensively in the sixth and eighth innings.
In the sixth, after a one-out walk to Terrero, Juan Uribe hit a bouncer to Castillo's left at second base. Castillo made a good play to get the force at second before Wilson made a spirited relay to first base to complete a double play.
In the eighth against Shawn Chacon, Andy Gonzalez led off with a ground ball deep into the hole at shortstop. Wilson made the stop 10 feet onto the outfield grass and nailed Gonzalez with a highlight-reel play.
Wilson didn't tarry in the clubhouse after the game, leaving before reporters could ask him about his play.
Perhaps he sensed he'll play again tonight and wanted to get home to get some rest.
Maholm has no thoughts about playing tonight so he was able to discuss his performance, which in the first inning threatened to become a cameo.
With one out, Maholm walked Gonzalez and Paul Konerko. That brought a visit to the mound from pitching coach Jim Colborn.
"Colby had seen something and he didn't want the inning to get away from [Maholm]," Tracy said.
Colborn suggested that Maholm might want to concentrate on being more aggressive and stop aiming the ball.
"He was just trying to hit my spot," catcher Ronny Paulino said. "It was like he was [pitching] afraid to miss."
Maholm didn't make the change immediately.
Jermaine Dye's single to left loaded the bases. A.J. Perzynski's sacrifice fly on a 3-1 pitch brought in a run. Maholm hit Terrero with a 1-2 pitch, but he regrouped and struck out Uribe to end the 32-pitch mess.
"I wasn't comfortable," Maholm said. "After the first few batters, I didn't know how long I was going to be in there. That first inning could have been a lot worse. When I got into the dugout, I told myself that was all they were getting."
The White Sox haven't been getting much against anybody recently. In losing 16 of their past 19 games, they've scored more than four runs in a game just four times.
Maholm was outstanding after the first inning. He allowed only two more hits in his seven-inning, 108-pitch workout.
"His sinker and his curveball were very good," Tracy said. "When he gets in a groove, he can very difficult to deal with."
The Pirates rewarded Maholm's limiting damage control in the first inning by scoring twice in the bottom of the first on two-out singles by Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche and a double into the right-center field gap by Xavier Nady on a 3-2 pitch.
Those two runs seemed huge in the ninth inning when Capps was uncharacteristically wild.
He yielded a leadoff double to Pierzynski, then nicked Terrero with an 0-2 pitch. That brought up pinch-hitter Jim Thome, but Capps struck him out on a 94-mph fastball.
He then whiffed Josh Fields with a 96-mph fastball but walked Rob Mackowiak on a 3-2 fastball.
Another walk to pinch-hitter Alex Cintron forced in a run. However, Gonzalez swung at the next pitch and popped to Wilson to end it.
"Capps got tested, but he handled things well," Tracy said.
What did Capps learn from this experience?
"Throw strikes -- which I didn't do," he said.
Castillo was plunked on his left elbow by a Jawon Day pitch in the eighth inning and seemed in great pain. However, Tracy said Castillo was OK.
Center fielder Chris Duffy left the game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Nate McLouth replaced him in center field.
Game: Pirates (RHP John Van Benschoten (0-0) vs. White Sox (LHP Mark Buehrle, 3-3, 3.69) 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7)
Key matchup: Pirates right-handed hitters against Buehrle, who has held righties to a .223 batting average. Left-handers are hitting .302 against him.
Of note: Buehrle, who pitched a no-hitter April 18 against Texas, has allowed three earned runs or less in nine of his 12 starts.