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The Pittsburgh Pirates see significance in being 5-0 for the first time in 41 years

WASHINGTON — (AP) — Let other folks downplay the way the Pittsburgh Pirates have begun 2024.

Manager Derek Shelton is thrilled that his club is 5-0 for the first time in 41 years — and has scored at least a half-dozen runs each time out this deep into a season for the first time in at least 124 years.

“There’s significance to getting off to a good start,” Shelton said Monday night after the Pirates beat the host Washington Nationals 8-4 to follow up a four-game series sweep at the Miami Marlins. “You come out of spring training and all the things you talk about that you kind of want to implement — and we’ve talked a lot about what our intent should be and how it should be — and we’ve kind of executed that in the first five games.”

Pittsburgh is coming off a 76-86 record a year ago and a fourth-place finish in the NL Central. The team hasn't ended up with a winning record since 2018 and hasn't won a game in the postseason since 2013.

So this sort of early success, as little as it might ordinarily mean in the marathon of a 162-game major league schedule, might actually carry some weight.

“I was just nervous to not mess it up,” left-handed starter Marco Gonzales said with a chuckle after his first outing with the Pirates, a no-decision in which he allowed just one run in five innings. “I’m just glad to get mine out of the way and keep it rolling. I don’t think anybody in here is really keeping track right now. We’re just having fun. That’s the best part about this.”

Heading into Wednesday's game at Washington after Pittsburgh's first day off arrives Tuesday, the Pirates have outscored the opposition 39-21 so far, which averages out to roughly 8-4.

And there are contributions from throughout the lineup.

On Monday, for example, Michael A. Taylor contributed three hits, while Bryan Reynolds, Andrew McCutchen, Alika Williams and Henry Davis each provided a pair.

Pittsburgh went ahead 3-1, suddenly found itself tied 3-all in the seventh, and then responded right away, putting up three runs in the eighth and another two in the ninth.

“We’re doing a lot of things really well. … We are doing a lot of different things right,” said Connor Joe, whose double drove home the go-ahead run in the eighth.

“Everyone’s aware that it's still early, right? We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, but the vibes are good. Everyone’s pulling for each other. Everyone’s building on the pressure that we’re putting on pitchers, right?” Joe said. “That’s kind of carrying over to the next guy and the next guy. Just grinding out at-bats. We’re playing some gritty baseball right now and that’s contagious.”

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