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First-place Pirates remain ultra motivated


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The Steelers missed the postseason. The Penguins were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Pirates, meanwhile, are in first place in the National League Central division through 16 games.

They've gone 10-6 to open the 2019 season, putting them just ahead of the second-place Brewers (12-8) through approximately 10 percent of their 162 games.

And that's kinda the key here, right? Just 10 percent of the season is gone. There's plenty of baseball to be played, a point not lost on manager Clint Hurdle. Ahead of the Pirates' 7:05 p.m. showdown vs. the Giants at PNC Park, I asked him what it meant for his team to get off to this hot, first-place start, and he didn't hesitate with this:

Funny enough, Jameson Taillon had that exact reaction when I brought the question to him — with just a touch more satisfaction at the end.

"I mean, it's not everything," Taillon told me. "It's a long season, but you always want to come out of the gates hot."

So we're all clear on it, then. First place is cool, but there's not too much to take away from that fact this early in the season. Still, 10-6 looks a lot better than 6-10, and Taillon was quick to fire back with some positives within the Pirates' early-season success.

"We've played the Reds, the Cardinals, the Nationals — we've played some really good teams, so it's nice to kind of compete against them and prove to ourselves all the hype in spring training and stuff that we were talking about, we can go out and play and back it up," he said.

A key component of these wins for the Pirates has been the pitching staff, which boasts an NL-best 2.63 combined ERA and trails only the Rays (2.50) overall in the Major Leagues.

"We're throwing the ball well," Taillon added. "The results are there, but what's more impressive is that guys are kind of just staying even keel and going about their work and about their business."

Then came the most important part from Taillon. The results are impressive in the early-goings — but the team remains motivated:

Hurdle echoed that sentiment.

"There's room for improvement in every category, and that's what we're most mindful of," he said. "That's what's been encouraging from our guys is they're always seeking, they're honestly self-evaluating after the game and they're looking for what's next and how do we improve upon it."

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