The Bucs have won 12 of their last 15 games and have taken five straight series for the first time since 1992. That hot streak has landed them in a first-place tie with Cincinnati, the first time Pittsburgh has been atop the NL Central since July 25, 2011.
Still, manager Clint Hurdle says the atmosphere in the clubhouse has remained unchanged.
"I think it has to do with maturity," Hurdle said. "It has to do with keeping the game simple and one of the things we've tried to do collectively as a group since the beginning of 2011 is to honestly self-evaluate."
Even during a 20-24 start before the recent tear, Hurdle said his team never panicked.
"They all believed deep in their core they were better than what they were showing, so they had that to hold onto," Hurdle said. "I think they've continued to challenge themselves and continued to work, which is just as important as anything. They've continued to work to get better and now they're starting to reap some of the fruits of their labor and some of their extra work."
Hurdle knows the Pirates have been in this situation before. Last year, the team shot out to a 51-44 start, only to close the season 21-46.
The players on that roster learned from that experience, Hurdle said.
"We need to all be of the understanding that this is a marathon," Hurdle said. "I do believe last year most of the players in that clubhouse actually walked out for the first time understanding what a 162-game season was all about. We played four months of very entertaining, enjoyable baseball and I think it drained them mentally and it drained them physically."
With those experiences and the addition of four experienced players in A.J. Burnett, Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard, Hurdle said he thinks he has a clubhouse capable of keeping it together through the ups and downs of a season.
"Having all of those experiences to walk away, and to kind of evaluate them over the winter, you kind of walk in, 'I'm going to be mentally tougher, I know what to expect there,'" Hurdle said. "That's the thing that I've really kind of been most pleased with is our ability to throw a shoe, have a bad game, shower and come back the next day and kind of recalibrate and get back in a good place."