ATLANTA — In previous postings, I’ve wondered about Ronny Paulino’s ability and ripped his lack of focus. But I’ve got to give him some props for a hustling play last night in a doomed effort against the Braves, and a similar play he made tonight that paid off.
Friday, the Pirates were trailing 8-0 in the seventh inning. Jose Bautista at first and Xavier Nady at second, one out. Paulino hit a roller to second baseman Kelly Johnson. Bautista was thrown out easily at second, but Paulino chugged down the line and beat the throw from shortstop Edgar Renteria — no slouch on the field — to first base. By going all out, Paulino avoided an inning-ending double play.
“You never can give up,” Paulino told me this afternoon. “You have to play hard in every situation. Anything can happen.”
It didn’t. Jack Wilson grounded out to short, ending the inning. But Paulino’s effort was impressive, nonetheless.
In the ninth inning, Paulino drove in the Pirates’ lone run with a sharp double to left off rookie Jose Ascanio.
Tonight, Paulino went 2 for 2 with a walk before the rain picked up and delayed the game against the Braves. He helped the Pirates erase a 4-0 deficit in the seventh inning with another tough-play infield grounder. Again, Paulino busted his butt down the line, and this time third baseman Chipper Jones threw the ball away. A run scored and Paulino went to second. Two batters later, Ryan Doumit smacked a game-tying home run.
It’s been a tough season so far for Paulino. But he’s shown me in these two games that he’s not just playing out the string.