Things could have gone south in a hurry after a gut wrenching loss in game one. Instead, the Pittsburgh Pirates showed great resiliency and responded to secure a series victroy over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to be the story of Major League Baseball. After surprising many people by taking two of three from the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, the Pirates are now 12-4 in their last 16 games played.
With this stretch, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now 18-8. This gives them the best record in the National League, as well as marking the first time the team has been over .500 since the end of the 2015 season. With their series victory over the Dodgers, the Pirates are now 5-2-1 in their eight series played this season.
The story of this series for these Pirates - above all else - may have been resiliency. They were a resilient bunch. A bunch that gut punched in the face and then kicked in the groin on their way down by one of the best teams in baseball in game one.
Make no mistake about it, the Pirates of the last 3 or 4 seasons would not have rallied to win this series. Shoot, they likely would have gotten swept while being smacked around along the way. But this is a different bunch. To quote Bill O'Brien, these guys are a bunch of "fighters." They don't get too low, they also avoid getting too high, and that allows them to be a resilient group always capable of bouncing back. That was on full display against the Dodgers.
Tuesday night the Pirates appeared to be well on their way to a series-opening victory. An Andrew McCutchen home run gave the Pirates a 7-2 lead in the 4th inning, however, they would fail to hold this lead.
Colin Holderman allowed a go-ahead 3-run home run to Chris Taylor in the top of the 8th inning. Then in the bottom half of the inning McCutchen popped out on a 3-1 ptich with two outs and the bases loaded to end the threat. This led to a gut punch, heartbreaking 8-7 loss.
Following the loss things quickly could have gone south for a young, still unproven team like the Pirates. To the credit of Derek Shelton, his staff, and his players, this is not what happened. Instead, the team should their resiliency and ability to respond by outscoring the Dodgers 14-3 in the final two games of the series to capture a series victory.
The Pirate response began with the performance of Roansy Contreras in game two. Taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning, Contreras turned in one of the best starts of his young MLB career by striking out five and allowing just four base runners in 6 scoreless innings pitched.
The Pirate offense would explode for 8 runs in game two and the bullpen slammed the door shut after Contreras. This allowed the Pirates to cruise to an impressive bounce back victory following Tuesday night's kick to the gut.
While securing their series victory on Thursday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates once again showed resiliency. Mitch Keller started the game and allowed a pair of runs in the top of the 1st inning. With the team trailing 2-0 after half an inning, Keller and the Bucs as a whole could have mailed it in. Especially on a getaway day. That, however, was far from what happened.
The Pirate offense immediately responded with a 3-run bottom of the 1st inning to take a lead that they would not relinquish. Keller also immediately responded by striking out the side in order in the top of the 2nd inning. This propelled Keller into pitching 6 innings, without allowing another run, and striking a career high 10 batters.
In the later innings the Pirates would keep adding to their lead to ecure a 6-2 victory. A victory that truly showed off their resiliency, while securing a series victory and improving to 18-8 on the season.
This group is much, much different from the Pirates of recent seasons. Their record, how their playing, how much fun they're having, the culture, all of this shows that. Enjoy this group. Have fun. Do not be afraid to start to believe, because the men in that clubhouse certainly do.