CHICAGO -- Through all the early mornings and long days in Florida, the Pirates developed an identity that has emerged over the first six weeks of the season. One thing they've made clear: They're a close-knit group playing like they have nothing to lose."Everybody picked us to be last and
CHICAGO -- Through all the early mornings and long days in Florida, the Pirates developed an identity that has emerged over the first six weeks of the season. One thing they've made clear: They're a close-knit group playing like they have nothing to lose.
"Everybody picked us to be last and tank and not be good, so we just go out and have fun and play," Jordy Mercer said Wednesday, after Pittsburgh's latest comeback win, a 6-5 victory over the White Sox. "When you have nothing to lose, it's a good feeling to go out and just play."
It's been even better when they've gone out and won, especially the way they stormed back to steal the last two games at Guaranteed Rate Field. On Tuesday night, the Bucs immediately erased a four-run deficit and came back to win. They waited a little longer on Wednesday afternoon, but the result was the same: yet another come-from-behind victory engineered by Pittsburgh's dynamic lineup.
"That's the mentality of every winning team," Colin Moran said. "No matter what situation you're in, you just try to grind out at-bats, pitch-to-pitch, and see where you're at in the end."
The Pirates trailed by three runs entering the ninth inning against White Sox right-hander Nate Jones. Starling Marte and Josh Bell started the rally with consecutive singles, and Bell moved into scoring position on Corey Dickerson's groundout. Elias Diaz then doubled down the right-field line, bringing the Bucs within a run.
"I think it's fun. Once we get a couple hits or a couple guys on base, you never know what can happen," Mercer said. "It can be anybody, too, in our lineup. I think everybody's seen that by now."
Up came Moran, who took one pitch before blasting a slider from Jones 416 feet to center field, as projected by Statcast™, for a go-ahead, two-run homer. Moran has made an instant impact for the Pirates, deepening their lineup and perhaps developing a flair for the dramatic.
"It's fun," Moran said. "Those are moments you work hard to be in. You try to just enjoy them."
There weren't many moments to enjoy early on Wednesday afternoon. White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his young Major League career, striking out six while allowing only two runs on three hits and two walks over 7 1/3 innings.
Pirates starter Trevor Williams, meanwhile, served up a pair of two-run homers to the White Sox. The first was by shortstop Tim Anderson, who lifted a low slider into the wind and out to left field in the second inning. The second was by Daniel Palka, who hammered a changeup out to left-center field to put Chicago ahead by four.
After five innings, Williams handed the game over to the Pirates' bullpen. Steven Brault struck out four in two innings. Richard Rodriguez allowed a run but wound up with his first Major League win -- "a dream come true," he said. Granted a lead by Moran's home run, closer Felipe Vazquez worked a perfect ninth to secure his seventh save and the Bucs' 10th come-from-behind victory of the season.
"I really believe they're out to do something special," manager Clint Hurdle said. "They believe they're capable of doing something special and significant. That's all that really matters. … It can be a mindset. We've got nothing to lose, and we believe we can play. It's a good combination."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
First strike: The Pirates could not muster any offense against Lopez, recording only one hit before the sixth inning. Then Mercer swatted a solo shot to left field and Gregory Polanco pulled his seventh home run of the season to right, cutting Chicago's lead in half.
"I just shortened up as best I could and was able to get the barrel to it. That's the biggest thing. Let him supply the power, and you just get the barrel to it," Mercer said of the hard-throwing Lopez. "I was able to get something up in the zone, not up out of the zone, and was able to put something on it."
Polanco's homer punctuated a quietly encouraging road trip for the right fielder. Polanco had cooled significantly after a torrid start at the plate, but he went 10-for-32 with seven runs, four RBIs, four walks, three doubles and Wednesday's homer.
"All of a sudden [Polanco and Mercer] hammer pitches, no-doubters," Moran said. "It kind of gets you going."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
It may not have seemed like a big play at the time, but Mercer helped shut down a potential rally in the third inning. With Jose Abreu at second, Nicky Delmonico got jammed by a Williams fastball and dropped a pop-up into shallow left field. The Pirates were shifted for the lefty-swinging Delmonico, so nobody was there to make the catch.
The White Sox aggressively sent Abreu home, and Mercer noticed. He quickly got to the ball, turned and fired home to Diaz, who tagged out Abreu to end the inning.
"I knew if I just [made] a good throw, we had plenty of time," Mercer said. "I took my time, got out a good throw and we got him."
HE SAID IT
"I didn't see it. Hopefully we'll get a shot of that that can go on the wall with all his other 16 faces." -- Hurdle, when told that the ever-stoic Moran broke into a big grin after his go-ahead home run, referring to a meme that made its way from Twitter to the wall of the coaches' room
"I don't think I've seen him smile yet. No, I'm just kidding. I'm kidding, I'm kidding! He smiled. I can't say that it was ear-to-ear, but I think I saw a little grin." -- Bell, on Moran
The Pirates will meet former face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen for the first time in a Giants uniform as they open a three-game series against San Francisco at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at PNC Park. After an off-day on Thursday, right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start against Giants lefty Andrew Suarez.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.