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Resilient Pirates continue to push forward

Pittsburgh again shows fight after trying victory on Sunday @TracyRingolsby

DENVER -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle smiled.

"Everybody can exhale now," he said.

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DENVER -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle smiled.

"Everybody can exhale now," he said.

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Then Hurdle shook his head.

Coming off one of their more challenging victories of the season in Arizona on Sunday afternoon in which the team blew multirun leads in the third, ninth and 12th innings, and with nearly 24 hours of a "sky is falling" reaction from outside the clubhouse, the Pirates made a statement of resilience with a 6-1 victory against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night.

Video: PIT@COL: Joyce pads Pirates' lead with three-run shot

"They showered well [Sunday] night," said Hurdle. "We washed all that away and came in here [Monday] with clean slate."

And they walked out on Monday night once again reinforcing the resiliency that has become a Bucs trademark under the direction of Hurdle, who in the third of his six seasons as their manager oversaw the ending of the franchise's 20-year drought in which they neither advanced to the postseason nor had a winning record.

Now Hurdle has the Pirates where winning and just playing in October is no longer an ambition, but rather an expectation. And now, instead of fans hoping the team can finish .500, they have had their appetite whetted by three consecutive postseason appearances and want more.

Fans want a trip to the World Series, which the Bucs haven't had since they knocked off the Orioles in 1979.

That takes a focus that Hurdle and his coaching staff have worked to instill in Pittsburgh's players, where they are able to move past the disappointments of a game gone, not allowing a bad day at the ballpark to morph into a bad week, month or summer.

"As a writer, if your boss is critical every time you have a bad story, eventually you aren't writing from your hear anymore," said Hurdle. "You are writing from the perspective of someone else."

That's what Hurdle works hard to avoid with the Pirates players. He holds them accountable, but the focus is not on what went wrong, but how to get better. It is about showing confidence in the players to get the job done.

Hurdle wouldn't get down on closer Mark Melancon, who failed in a save situation for the first time this season when he gave up a game-tying two-run home run in the ninth to Paul Goldschmidt on Sunday, and Neftali Feliz, who wound up with the victory, but only after he let a two-run lead disappear in the bottom of the 12th before the Bucs rallied for that 12-10 victory in the 13th.

Now, A.J. Schugel, whose father was an original Rockies scout and who grew up in suburban Denver, earned the first save of his Major League career on Monday night, the day after Arquimedes Caminero got his first big league save in the aftermath of Melancon and Feliz not being able to come through.

Video: PIT@ARI: Caminero fans Miller to lock down the win

But that was Melancon up in the bullpen in the ninth when the Rockies got a man on base.

"He was coming in if it got into a save situation," said Hurdle. "We have to move down the road [after Sunday]. We're looking at that next opportunity."

There's no looking back. The Pirates can't afford that. With those two decades of failure before postseason appearances, what happened Sunday isn't really the type of thing worth dwelling on.

And truth be told, it's not like the past three seasons have sated the Bucs hunger for success. Sure, they have advanced to the postseason each time, averaging 93 victories, but they have finished second each time, to the Cardinals, and they have stumbled in the early segment of the postseason.

The Pirates lost to the Cardinals in five games in the National League Division Series in 2013, and then, with the addition of two Wild Cards and a playoff game between them, the Bucs have been one-and-out in the postseason each of the past two years.

Video: PIT@COL: Harrison covers 121 feet to make grab

It says something about the rise the club has made under Hurdle that making the postseason is no longer satisfying to neither the Pirates nor their fans. They want more.

Think about it. There's not a Bucs fan in his 30s who has seen the team win a World Series championship. They saw Pittsburgh lose three consecutive NL Championship Series from 1990-92, then that NLDS in 2013 and in the NL Wild Card Game the past two years.

It's Hurdle's challenge to provide the Pirates a championship view.

"It is why we play the game," he said.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for

Pittsburgh Pirates