Walker’s feel-good story gets better


These are the kinds of games you look forward to writing about — the kind when good things happen to good people.

It’s enough that Neil Walker, who clubbed the game-winning homer tonight against the Cubs, is a local guy. About the same time he was jolting the Pirates to a comeback win, his alma mater, Pine-Richland, was taking out rival North Allegheny in the Quad-A championship game. Walker’s mom and dad were in the stands at PNC Park, sitting next to his girlfriend and her family.

Can’t get much more Pittsburgh than that, unless they were all chomping Primanti Bros. sammiches.

But what makes it an ever better story is that Walker is one of the friendliest, most easygoing guys in the game. A class act.

Walker’s home run also scored Andrew McCutchen, who drew a one-out walk. McCutchen was waiting when Walker reached home plate after a dizzying trip ’round the bases.

“My first thought was, we took the lead,” Walker said. “I was real happy. And when I hit home and saw Andrew, a guy that I’ve gone four or five years playing with (in the minors), and all the stuff we’ve gone through together, it gave me chills.”

After the game, Walker and McCutchen walked together out of the dugout and across the field, towards the players’ exit. Walker walked quickly, casually … and allowed himself one glace over his shoulder toward the left field wall.

As he got to the to right field corner, Walker was still smiling.

– The Pirates have won five straight games against the Cubs in Pittsburgh for the first time since taking seven in a row from June 26, 1991 to July 16, 1992.

Overall, the Pirates have won nine of their past 10 games against Chicago, dating back to a doubleheader sweep last September at Wrigley Field.

– If Jeff Karstens had a Olympic sprinter’s speed, the Pirates might have gotten a run in the third inning.

Karstens led off with a line-drive single to left. With two outs, Lastings Milledge hit a fly ball to the gap in left-center. The ball dropped in front of Tyler Colvin, who tried to make a diving catch, and rolled to the wall.

Milledge was thrown out trying for a triple. Karstens touched home plate an instant after Milledge was tagged.

Three reactions:

Manager John Russell — “Lastings made a big mistake. He should’ve stayed at second base. We had the run; his job was done. He got excited. The excitement and adrenaline took over, and his brain didn’t take over. He’s got to stop at second base, knowing the pitcher’s in front of him.”

Milledge — “I was trying to get a triple. I knew for sure he’d score easily, even if I got thrown out at third.”

Karstens — “I was running hard. Once I rounded third, I saw (on-deck hitter Garrett) Jones’ arm go up, so I kind of coasted in rather than run hard. It’s my fault. I cost Milledge an RBI. It won’t happen again.”

– Cubs manager Lou Piniella benched four of his stars — outfielder Marlon Byrd (.299 batting average), first baseman Derrek Lee (.233), third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.162) and catcher Geovany Soto (.260). The Cubs responded by taking a 2-0 lead in the third inning, then got just three baserunners the rest of the game.