PITTSBURGH -- A Pirates half-season difficult to define was, well, defined by Sunday's 2-1 win in 14 innings over the Brewers.
There have been two constants on their road to 51-30. One, their often-voiced daily goal to simply get one run more than the other team -- which sounds inane, until you actually see it in practice. And, of course, that bullpen; while the rotation has gone through numerous reconstructions and the offense has been mediocre, the fins haven't changed and the performances haven't ebbed in the Shark Tank.
One run more?
The Bucs began the week with a 10-inning, 10-9 win in Anaheim -- the third time they won while allowing seven-plus runs. They ended it with consecutive 2-1 wins over the Brewers -- the seventh and eighth times they won while scoring two or fewer runs.
The six relievers who combined for 12 shutout innings of two-hit ball Sunday set their already lofty bar so high, not even former Olympic pole vaulter Sergey Bubka could clear it. Vin Mazzaro, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson relayed for absolutely the best extended pitching performance in club history:
• Never before had the Pirates bullpen combined for 12 shutout innings in one game.
• Mazzaro started it off with five perfect innings, the first Pirates reliever to do that since Elmer Ponder retired all 17 men he faced in a 5 2/3-inning stint on July 23, 1919.
• Combined with rain-shortened starter Charlie Morton's two innings, the Pirates went through a game of at least 14 innings without issuing a single walk for the first time since May 22, 1976, against the Cubs.
• The relievers extended their stays by remarkably obeying manager Clint Hurdle's three-pitches-or-fewer wish: 24 of the 36 outs they got followed that edict.
"It's nice how every time they go out they just shut the door," said Russell Martin, who normally catches them, but on Sunday merely came off the bench to deliver the winning hit in a pinch. "We're getting used to it. We're blessed right now."
The Brewers were only shocked to have been so shut down by so many different arms.
"It feels like they all throw 110 [mph]," outfielder Logan Schafer said. "They've all got good stuff. They know what they're doing. They're pretty effective at getting ahead in counts, and that's big on their end."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.