SARASOTA - The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since Barry Bonds left after the 1992 playoff season. But the Pirates have more than just a winning record right now.
When Russell Martin's pinch-hit single drove in the winning run in the 14th inning Sunday, it not only gave the Pirates a 2-1 win, but it also gave them a 9-game winning streak. "Obviously, winning is fun. Being on a team with guys that play their hearts out and enjoy the game? Yes, it’s fun," said Martin.
The Pirates, under manager Clint Hurdle, have been pushing that rock up the hill like Sisyphus; but every year after the all-star break, the rock rolls back down the hill. This year has a different feel to it. "I continue just to remind them: you are in charge of what you focus on, you're in charge of how you prepare. They have been very good at doing that this year," says Hurdle.
Friday night, rookie Gerit Cole won his 4th straight game -- the first time a Pirate has began a career 4-0 since 1907. Reliever Vin Mazzaro pitched 5 innings in relief without allowing a base runner -- the first Bucs reliever to do that since 1919.
"He came back out and he dominated from there on out. It was good to see that, good to see his make-up. That's going to make him into a real good pitcher," says outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
By the way, at the midway point of the season, the Pirates are not only 1st in the NL Central, not only the top NL team, but at 51-30 they also have the best record in all of baseball.
"I think we just enjoy it naturally. The thing that we do, we prepare the same way. We just go out there and give the same effort every day. So no matter whether we win or lose, we give everything we have," says Martin.