Kovacevic: Are Pirates alive? They think so ☕


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"Man, we needed that."

This was Josh Bell. He and I were talking after the Pirates' spectacular Sunday double-upending of the Padres at PNC Park. And believe it or not, he wasn't referencing the three-run rally in the ninth inning or, for that matter, the four-run rally in the 11th.

Nope. He meant the broader feel. And I got it the first time.

Because to understand this group that takes the field each day, one I've been praising in the character category since the buses rolled into Bradenton, is to understand they aren't caught up in outside perception. At all. They don't care -- and hardly ever discuss -- that the owner's a penny-pincher with far different priorities. Or that the baseball operations staff can't find a functioning arm in Class AAA Indianapolis. Or that pretty much everyone beyond the walls of their clubhouse sees their 2019 season as a lost cause.

Come on, who couldn't confess to this?

Sure, at 36-40, they're six games out of first place, 3 1/2 off the wild card. But that's a fine spot only in a blind vacuum, given that they're still lugging along a minus-72 run differential, and they're embarking today on a trip to Houston and Milwaukee to take on two of Major League Baseball's best teams, then face -- sit down for this -- Cubs, Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals and Phillies.

Not a loser in the bunch. Add those six teams' current records, and they're a combined 38 games over .500. The Astros alone account for half of that.

And bear in mind, the Pirates are 13-26 against teams over .500, 3-14 over the past month.

All logic strongly suggests they're about to be buried.

Again, though, that logic never seems to penetrate the only place that matters.

"We'll have to do better against those teams, no question," Bell told me. "But we're also starting to see some results for a lot of good things that have been happening, and we're feeling good. We just need to keep it going."

Go ahead and bet against the guy who had a dozen home runs last year and suddenly merits regular remembrances of Willie Stargell.

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