Randy Johnson is known to work quickly on the mound. When Doug Mientkiewicz stepped in against Johnson in the third inning this afternoon, the big left-hander had little interest in wasting precious time. Mientkiewicz took a fastball inside, running the count to 2-1. With the scorching sun blazing down, the Big Unit immediately toed the rubber and waited. Mientkiewicz, showing no urgency, prepared himself outside the box. When he finally stepped in, Johnson wasted little time going into his windup. Mientkiewicz quickly asked for time and stepped out. He received an angry glare for his actions, and the two players exchanged some heated words. So what did Mientkiewicz do next? He stepped out on Johnson again, and the fun began. Johnson had had enough, and he made his way towards the plate to tell Mientkiewicz about it. Mientkiewicz, never one to be timid, met Johnson halfway to explain his point of view. Benches cleared, the two were restrained and order was quickly restored.
After the incident, the at-bat resumed. Johnson, obviously irritated, threw two quick balls and Mientkiewicz trotted to first with a walk. Johnson continued to struggle with his emotions, firing a pick-off throw to first that nearly struck Mientkiewicz in the helmet. When Jose Bautista softly bounced one back to the mound, Johnson was flustered. He flailed at the ball, only able to knock it down. After gathering the loose ball, he proceeded to throw wildly to first. All runners were safe. After another error, Johnson walked Luis Rivas to force home a run. Just like that, the Pirates had taken a 1-0. And Mientkiewicz had caused the whole situation with an opportune time-out.
Johnson had cruised up until this point. Afterward, he labored through every inning. In the fourth, a walk led to another run. Mientkiewicz contributed again, with a single on a hit-and-run. Another walk by Johnson led to another Pirate run in the fifth. Mientkiewicz was in the middle of things again in the sixth inning. He drew a leadoff walk, and eventually scored on a Rivas single. After Johnson was removed, Rivas came around to score on a Jack Wilson single. The Pirates would go on to win, 5-3.
Doug Mientkiewicz is only hitting .228. His OPS is only .667. His performance has not been anything special to this point. But on this day, he very well may have singlehandedly won a game for the Pirates. And all it took was stepping out of the box at just the right moment.