The stuff of Hollywood

Neil Walker lived the dream on Tuesday night.

The rookie went to the plate for his hometown team, swatted a gigantic home run, and helped the team he had followed as a kid win a big-league game.

Shades of Robert Redford and Kevin Costner, huh?

Nope. It was a real-life event in the good city of Pittsburgh, which hasn't had a whole lot to cheer about lately.

Walker was the Pirates' top draft choice in 2004, after he had starred for Pine-Richland High in Allegheny County.

Called up from triple-A Indianapolis late last month, he had at least one hit in six of his first eight games, including Tuesday's homer, which beat the Cubs, 3-2, in Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

"This goes back to being 5 or 6 years old at Three Rivers Stadium, sitting in peanut heaven," Walker said after the game. "Getting drafted by the Pirates, this is just a Cinderella story. It's incredible.

"I don't know if I can compare this to anything that's ever happened to me. Maybe the day being drafted? I'm really at a loss for words, and I'm usually not at a loss for words. I'm just tremendously happy."

Here comes Washington again

With all the buzz about last summer's No.1 draft pick, righthander Stephen Strasburg, making it to the majors this month, it's easy to forget the Nationals have the top pick in this month's draft, too.

By all accounts, the choice will be catcher Bryce Harper of Southern Nevada Community College, a lefthanded power hitter who is still only 17. Huh?

Prompted by uber-agent Scott Boras, Harper left Las Vegas High last spring after his sophomore year. He obtained a General Equivalency Diploma in December and enrolled at SNCC in January.

Since junior college players can enter the draft after one season, Harper is available in what would have been his junior year in high school.

History lesson

Flighty Philadelphians - you know who you are - can take heart from this research done by the Elias Sports Bureau and quoted by Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. In the three-game wipeout by the Mets last week, the Phillies got 20 hits and 10 walks in the three shutouts.

Only one team in the last 50 years got more hits in a streak of three straight shutouts - the 1966 Dodgers.

And that team made the World Series.

Noteworthy

San Diego activated outfielder Scott Hairston from the 15-day disabled list, where he was healing a strained left hamstring, and sent outfielder Luis Durango to triple A.