Hurdle praises Pirates' remarkable resiliency

Club finds ways to win games; manager points to clutch relief work

Hurdle praises Pirates' remarkable resiliency

PITTSBURGH -- In many ways, the Pirates' 97th win on Friday night was very much like the first 96, from haplessness to happiness.

Their starting pitcher tripped out of the gate. They looked helpless against a young pitcher without much pedigree. By the third inning, they were down four runs to a team on a 12-game losing streak. They were flat, loose with the ball in the field, lost in the batter's box.

At the end of the night, they were 6-4 winners over the Reds on Starling Marte's 12th-inning home run.

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Manager Clint Hurdle understandably lauds the resilience that has enabled his team to post the Major League's second-best record. Truth be told, at times he probably is a little amazed by it, too.

"We have complicated things. We're not proud or happy about it," Hurdle said of the litany of consistent flubs the Pirates have had to overcome -- from a National League-high 121 errors, to countless careless outs on the bases. "We do stress fundamentals, but we have not been fundamentally consistent. That said, we have been resilient.

"They throw their hearts out there every day, and we've been able to come out on the other side more often than not."

No better evidence of that than the 43 comeback wins inflating the Bucs' record.

Hurdle's favorite way of phrasing the phenomenon is that the Pirates "pitch over" their own mistakes. Translation: There is no greater equalizer than good pitching late in the game, a forte of this team for the third straight season.

Since the start of the 2013 season -- also the onset of the Bucs' postseason run -- Pittsburgh relievers own the NL's lowest collective ERA (2.91) and MLB's most relief wins (94).

"If you wanted to look for a reason for the resilience, I would start there," Hurdle said. "They've been the reason, more often than not, for us scratching and clawing and coming back, after they stop the bleeding. Just look at the numbers after the sixth inning."

After the sixth, a good day's work for modern starters, it's relief time. The Pirates are 90-14 when either leading or tied after six innings.

Given that he is marshaling only the sixth edition to win 97 games in the club's 129-year history, Hurdle does get an occasional kick out of the attention paid to the team's fundamental shortcomings -- such as the sideways looks he apparently got in-house earlier Saturday.

"From a guy who'd told me for the five years I've been here that it's all about the W's, that wins and losses are the only thing that count, they define you," Hurdle said, chuckling. "Now he's telling me about all the things we do wrong.

"And I said, 'What about the 97 wins?' So, I guess, wins count until something else matters."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.