HOUSTON -- With Monday's ninth-inning stunner, this 2008 Pirates team inked yet another comeback. What may be most surprising, though, is that Monday's come-from-behind win was really no surprise at all.
Considering the penchant the Pirates and Astros have for late-innings
dramatics against each other recently, it was hard to believe that the Pirates would go
down quietly while facing a one-run deficit in the ninth. And then there's the
fact that those watching the Bucs this season have seen similar comebacks all
Monday's win marked the fifth time this season that the Pirates have won a game
when trailing after eight innings. To put that number into better perspective,
consider that in two seasons under former manager Jim Tracy, the team had five such wins total.
"I wish I could say I had something to do with it," first-year manager John
Russell said. "I just think it's the overall atmosphere. Guys really believe in
Evidence of how scrappy the offense has been and how well the bullpen has
performed all season, the Pirates now have 16 wins in their final at-bat this
season. Opponents have just 10.
And with 63 games remaining on the schedule, the Pirates need just one more
final at-bat win to match their total from 2004, their highest total in
the past five seasons.
In all, the Bucs have notched 24 come-from-behind victories this year.
It's a total that trails just three National League clubs -- Florida (28),
Milwaukee (27) and Chicago (25), all of which are playoff contenders.
Talking with Russell and his players, the overwhelming
belief is that it all goes back to that change in clubhouse mentality. It's
that whole "accountability" thing reaping benefits.
"Does it help you win late in the game?" Russell asked rhetorically. "Yeah, I
think so. You stay together and you always have that spark."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.