Trade Nate McLouth? Give the ball to Ross Ohlendorf, and watch the host Pirates win.
Trade Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett and Eric Hinske? Give the ball to Ohlendorf, and watch the host Pirates win again.
Right about now, the dazed and confused players around the home clubhouse might be wondering: When Ohlendorf starts at PNC Park in that homestand after the All-Star break, who has got to go?
"Yeah," Freddy Sanchez said long after an emotional yesterday ended with a 3-0 victory against the visiting Chicago Cubs, "seriously."
A combo platter of a collected Ohlendorf -- somewhere between finishing a Dick Francis novel before the game and heeding pitching coach Joe Kerrigan's advice to chill out -- and a torrid-hitting Sanchez prodded the Pirates to complete what they considered a three-loss day with a three-run triumph.
"Obviously, we lost [three] great guys, both on the field and in the clubhouse," Sanchez said after going 3 for 3 with a double, an RBI, a walk and a stolen base in a nifty, accidental impersonation of Morgan, the No. 2 hitter he replaced after Morgan's trade to Washington.
"That's the business. That's baseball. We got to keep playing. We'll just try to finish what we started."
It was an odd juxtaposition for Sanchez, 0 for 4 a night earlier while stranding six baserunners in a 3-1 loss against the Cubs. Moved back into the No. 2 hole, where the Pirates are 22-23 with him this season, Sanchez responded.
He walked in his first plate appearance, singled and scored in the fourth inning, singled and drove in Jack Wilson with two out in the fifth, and doubled in pinch-hitter Steve Pearce with two out in the seventh.
• Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Virgil Vasquez (1-0, 3.00) vs. RHP Randy Wells (2-3, 2.57).
• Key matchup: Everyone vs. the talented rookie Wells, who has held opponents to a .219 average, with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks in his first nine career starts.
• Of note: Freddy Sanchez leads the Pirates with 31 multiple-hit games, including his 3-for-3 performance last night.
"Felt good to go out and get the job done," said Sanchez.
He could have been a scapegoat for a defensive misplay in the eighth, when a diving Wilson's stab and throw sailed over the head of a Sanchez who kept his spikes on second base but failed to stop the throw from going to the foul line in short right field.
After pinch-hitter Milton Bradley took second on that error and Ryan Theriot moved to third, reliever John Grabow struck out Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome before Derrek Lee grounded to Sanchez to end the threat. Sanchez later asked if the scorekeeper could revisit that error given to Wilson.
Meantime, Ohlendorf breezed to what he considered his best outing since he went seven scoreless innings against Florida April 20. In fact, he had recorded just one victory in his past seven starts, though his 41/3 post-McLouth innings June 4 were enough to get the Pirates started on an 11-6 thumping of the New York Mets. He struck out a career-high eight batters last night, easily surpassing his previous high of five.
"I think that was just because my slider was so good," he said. "For whatever reason, I felt more relaxed."
So calm and focused was Ohlendorf, he didn't notice teammate after teammate filing past his locker-stall media session imitating his deep, monotone voice pattern.
"I was pitching the day Nate got traded, too, so I've kind of already been through it once," said Ohlendorf of that June 3 rainout that still got him the start the day after. "You do have to be able to block it out and just worry about the game."