CLEVELAND -- Late Monday night, Josh Harrison said the Pirates weren't looking for validation outside of their own clubhouse. But there's no denying they've proven themselves over the past two weeks. It's been that long since the hottest team in baseball last lost a game.The Pirates jumped out to an
CLEVELAND -- Late Monday night, Josh Harrison said the Pirates weren't looking for validation outside of their own clubhouse. But there's no denying they've proven themselves over the past two weeks. It's been that long since the hottest team in baseball last lost a game.
The Pirates jumped out to an early lead on Tuesday night and rode Joe Musgrove's strong seven-inning start to a 9-4 victory, their 11th straight win. Pittsburgh will return to Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon carrying the club's first 11-game winning streak since Sept. 12-22, 1996.
The Bucs have won 13 of their last 14 games while outscoring their opposition, 84-33. They are four games over .500 for the first time since Memorial Day and only three games out of the second National League Wild Card spot. In two weeks, they've gone from certain sellers to potential contenders.
"There were a lot of questions about this team going into the season. As a team, all you need is confidence in one another," Musgrove said. "It doesn't really matter what anyone else says or what the hype is about you. If we believe in one another, we're capable of this kind of run."
This has been a season of dramatic highs and lows for the Pirates. They won 26 of their first 43 games then lost 31 of their next 45. But at no point during either stretch were they playing such complete games on a nightly basis. Their young rotation has stabilized, their bullpen has taken shape, and their lineup is pounding opposing pitching staffs.
"You see what our team can really do when we get everything banging on all cylinders at the same time," Musgrove said.
Their latest win followed a familiar storyline. Pitching with a big lead, Musgrove attacked the strike zone and continued the starting rotation's excellent run by holding the Indians to two runs on five hits and a walk. Over the past 14 games, Pirates starters have put together a 2.47 ERA.
"The streak starts with the pitching. We've got to keep runs off the board in order to win games," Musgrove said. "The offense giving us seven, eight runs a night is obviously helping, but we're taking a lot of pride in our ability to go out night after night and put together quality starts. I think everyone's kind of doing their job right now."
That was the case offensively as well. The Pirates sent 10 men to the plate, and each of them had at least one hit -- a fitting representation of the collective effort that got them to this point.
"This has been extremely fun to watch collectively, the pack mentality from the top to the bottom of the lineup that continues to show up," manager Clint Hurdle said.
But as has often been the case lately, their top-of-the-order outfield trio led the way.
Left fielder Corey Dickerson began the game with a hustle double to left-center, then center fielder Starling Marte extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a two-run homer to left. Marte now owns the longest hitting streak of his career and the longest in the National League this season.
The bottom of the order started Pittsburgh's second-inning rally, then Dickerson came up with two outs and runners on first and second. The lefty smashed a fly ball off the wall in left-center field, and the ball then rolled away from Indians center fielder Tyler Naquin. Dickerson's team-leading sixth triple drove in David Freese and Harrison.
Marte then reached on an infield single, and right fielder Gregory Polanco ripped a homer to right field -- his 18th of the season -- that traveled an estimated 418 feet, according to Statcast™.
"It's awesome. It's really cool to see everybody do something special up there," Dickerson said. "It's really fun for me being around Polanco and Marte, kind of feeding off one another."
Josh Bell padded Pittsburgh's lead with his sixth home run of the season, a two-run shot off reliever Neil Ramirez in the fifth inning. This offensive outburst has been even more historic than their winning streak. How so? The Pirates have scored at least six runs in seven straight games for the first time since 1946.
"It's unbelievable," Bell said. "I've never been part of anything like it."
The Pirates have homered in nine straight games, launching 21 long balls during that streak. They've hit 31 homers this month, tied with the Yankees for most in the Majors, and their starting outfielders have combined to account for 20 of them.
If the Pirates beat the Indians on Wednesday, they will tie the Astros for the longest winning streak in the Majors this season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Unable to help his cause at the plate in an American League ballpark, Musgrove did so in the field on Tuesday night. With Francisco Lindor on second and nobody out in the first inning, Michael Brantley dropped a nearly flawless bunt toward third base. Musgrove quickly changed his direction, slid to snag the ball and fired a quick throw to Bell for the out at first base.
Musgrove said he made the same play in Triple-A two years ago, but Hurdle was no less impressed by his starter's display of athleticism.
"He's probably our second-best athlete on the club, overall, behind Marte. There's nothing he can't do athletically," Hurdle said. "That's a fantastic play in the first inning. Who knows where that inning goes if he doesn't make that play? He's the one guy that can make that play off the mound." More >>
HE SAID IT
"I have a saying that I use all the time: I'm not superstitious, but just in case, there are some things I'll continue to do." -- Hurdle, on how he handles himself during lengthy winning streaks
"Everyone's excited to show up to the field. There's a different vibe in the clubhouse. The chemistry's really good right now. You talk about bonds and stuff and teammates bonding on and off the field and stuff, and I don't think you bond any other way than winning. We're learning a lot about each other in here and about what it takes to put games together and put them together properly. We're really happy right now. We're playing really good baseball. We're going to try to keep doing that." -- Musgrove
DICKERSON DEPARTS WITH INJURY
Dickerson exited the game in the fourth inning due to left hamstring discomfort. Dickerson appeared to tweak something in his leg as he ran out a groundout to second base in the top of the frame. Jordan Luplow replaced Dickerson in left field. Dickerson described the discomfort as "very mild" and "nothing that I'm concerned about." He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday morning.
"I was kind of awkward coming out of the box. It was kind of wet, and I was trying to beat it out," Dickerson said. "I kind of felt something weird -- not a pop, not a pull. I knew I wasn't going to beat it, so I just slowed down instead of pushing it. It's better to be cautious than really cause an injury."
The Pirates will go for their 12th straight win on Wednesday as they face the Indians at 1:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Right-hander Jameson Taillon, who is 5-3 with a 3.15 ERA over his past 10 starts, will take the mound for the series finale. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.44 ERA) will start for Cleveland.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.