Pirates stage another rally to continue streak

Pirates stage another rally to continue streak

ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Locke walked into the dugout after four innings on Wednesday night having put the Pirates in an early hole, letting a one-run lead turn into a four-run deficit. Josh Harrison walked up to him, patted him on the backside and said, simply, "We'll get these guys for you."

With the way things have gone over the last week, who wouldn't believe him? Sure enough, the Pirates reeled off six unanswered runs and beat the Cardinals, 7-5, their season-high seventh consecutive win and their sixth straight of the come-from-behind variety.

"To come back and win a ballgame here, down 5-1, that doesn't happen very often," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You give the offense credit, and then the last five innings out of the bullpen -- zeros again. ... Everybody's throwing something in."

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The Pirates have won 10 of their last 12 games, launching themselves from four games below .500 to second place in the National League Central, having shaved 5 1/2 games off the first-place Cubs' lead. This is the first time the Pirates have put together a streak of six straight comeback victories since June 11-16, 1983.

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The Pirates stumbled and struggled through nine wins and 19 losses in June. They're 6-0 in July, the only undefeated club this month. What's the difference?

"We played good baseball in April and May. It's not like this is something new," Hurdle said. "We're not reinventing the game right now. We're finding our way back to where we played the first two months."

Rodriguez's solo homer

Offensively, that was evident in the Pirates' approach during Wednesday night's rally, as they patiently sprayed balls up the middle and to the opposite field. Sean Rodriguez started the comeback with a fifth-inning homer to center and slapped an RBI single to right in the sixth.

"It does speak to the point of slowing things down," Hurdle said. "You're not going to come back in one swing."

Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang, the Pirates' two biggest struggling stars, walked to lead off the sixth and scored on singles by Harrison and Rodriguez. McCutchen singled to center in the seventh, and Kang followed with a go-ahead double to right-center.

Kang's go-ahead double

"We're going to need them to get to where we want to go," Hurdle said. "They have a lot of confidence every time they take the field, and it showed up tonight."

The Pirates have all the confidence in the world in their bullpen, and the relief corps continued to reward that faith. Jared Hughes delivered a scoreless fifth. A.J. Schugel, a revelation in middle relief, tossed a perfect sixth. The back-end trio of Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon did their usual work, preserving the Pirates' lead.

"The guys keep battling. They don't give up," Locke said. "It's kind of inspiring to step back for a second and not worry about yourself. The team's pulling for you. They're playing good behind you."

Locke was waiting in the clubhouse when the Pirates came in after the game, and Harrison was the last player off the field.

"He said, 'What'd I tell you?'" Locke said, smiling. "He always has to rub it in."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.