ATLANTA -- Fault for that ghastly defensive gaffe in the opener, by most accounts, could be divided evenly between Jason Bay and Nate McLouth.
But it is Bay taking full responsibility.
"I take the blame," he said yesterday, his first time available for comment since that 12-11 victory Monday. "I should have caught that ball."
There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, two runners aboard for Atlanta's Brian McCann, and the Braves down two runs. Bay and McLouth were just in front of the warning track in the Pirates' no-doubles defense, and when McCann's high pop seemed bound for shallow left-center, each went into a full sprint to get there, which they did in plenty of time. Trouble was, each thought the other was camped under it.
- INDIANAPOLIS opens its season tonight at Pawtucket. RHP Bryan Bullington will start.
- ALTOONA opens its season tonight against Reading. LHP Kyle Bloom will start.
- LYNCHBURG opens its season tomorrow at Frederick. LHP Tony Watson will start.
- HICKORY opens its season tonight against West Virginia. RHP Duke Welker will start.
"It was a classic miscommunication," Bay said. "I thought he had it, and he thought I had it."
Neither lost sight of the ball.
"I saw it the whole way," Bay said. "But I saw Nate coming out of the corner of my eye, and that's why I kind of bailed to get out of his way. That's when I saw the ball fall. ... Not a good feeling, that's for sure."
The key, he said, was that neither was in much position to call for the ball.
"Usually, someone calls it because there's enough time to make a decision. But, because we're both on a dead sprint, neither one of us did. Again, I take the blame. That ball has to be caught. But, once I saw him, I thought that maybe he had called it while running in."
How much did it help that the Pirates pulled it out?
"Thank God we won, or it would have been a very restless sleep, that's for sure."
Add Bay to the list of those impressed by the encouraging reaction they received in the dugout after that ninth inning.
"It was outstanding. It was ... I don't want to say uncharacteristic, but it was refreshing. It made a difference, believe me."
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez reported "no problem at all" with the right shoulder that troubled him all through spring, and that was evident with a bullet of a relay from right field to third base Monday.
But he did acknowledge he is using a three-quarters motion -- meaning the arm slot rather than effort level -- to keep comfortable.
• The Pirates' players bought manager John Russell a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon in recognition of his first major-league victory. All 25 signed it, too.
• Russell reiterated that Ronny Paulino will make his season debut at catcher tonight.
• Left-hander Ted Lilly lines up to pitch for the Chicago Cubs Monday in the Pirates' home opener.
• Catcher Andrew Walker, the Pirates' fifth-round draft pick last summer, will not open the season on time with Class A Hickory because of a minor ankle injury.
• Starter Josh Shortslef, the first cut of spring training because of shoulder trouble, will be ready to open the season for Class AAA Indianapolis.