The Pirates have arrived at the halfway point of the 2013 campaign and, lo and behold, they are the talk of baseball.
It's for good measure, as Pittsburgh boasts a Major League-best 51-30 mark, which has the Pirates on pace for their first 100-win season since 1909. The Bucs won the World Series that year.
The franchise's first winning season since 1992? That now seems like an afterthought. For now, though, Clint Hurdle's surging club is just trying to maintain the status quo. The Pirates enter Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies riding a nine-game winning streak, and the skipper admits the team talks openly about its accomplishments.
"There are some guys that are superstitious," Hurdle said. "We've got some guys that have some superstitions, but truly, the guys that have been here three years, have found out it's a simpler way to live, a simpler way to play.
"It's kind of like being honest. You only have to be honest once. If you tell a lie, you have to tell another lie. If you're just playing for the day, you can invest all your focus in doing what you can do to be the best player you can be today to help my team win the game.
"And the jinx part of it: My next door neighbor's cat is named Jinx. That's what I know about jinxes. I don't buy into it."
The Bucs appear primed to capture their 10th straight win -- which would be the club's longest streak since 2004 -- on Tuesday.
The Phillies will task 22-year-old rookie Jonathan Pettibone (3-3, 4.17 ERA) with the challenge of halting the Pirates' win streak. The right-hander made his Major League debut against Pittsburgh on April 22. He yielded two runs in 5 2/3 innings and did not factor into the decision.
Brandon Cumpton was called up from Triple-A on Tuesday to make a spot start for the Pirates in place of left-hander Jeff Locke, who was scratched from his start after warming up extensively during Sunday's extra-inning game against Milwaukee.
Cumpton made two starts in mid-June and allowed four runs, two walks and 12 hits over 10 innings. He struck out eight over the two no-decisions.
Phillies: Howard's struggles persist
First baseman Ryan Howard returned to the lineup on Sunday after sitting two games against a pair of left-handed starters. Howard went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He is now hitless in his last 20 at-bats.
Howard is batting .264 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs.
Pirates: Rodriguez's status in limbo
Wandy Rodriguez received a cortisone shot in his arm on Saturday. His rehab remains on hold.
Rodriguez's forearm tightened up during a throwing session on Friday. The injury forced him to an early exit from his start on June 5. Hurdle said it "wouldn't be fair" to say Rodriguez will need surgery.
• The Pirates took three of four from the Phillies in Philadelphia in late April.