"The confidence comes from getting prepared out there, getting ready to go," said Martin, who left the New York Yankees to sign a two-year, $17 million contract this past winter. "It's like you're studying for a test and you're not worried about the test, you studied for it. That's the feeling I think we have."
With 12 games remaining before the All-star game, there's a good chance Pittsburgh will surpass its 2010 win total prior to the break. Then again, after what happened the past two seasons, seemingly no one associated with the Pirates is getting too caught up with where they sit in the standings during July. Maybe in 2011, first place — no matter the point of the season — was cause for elation.
"It's definitely something we notice and take pride in, but we're nowhere near the finish line yet," Jones said. "We're in a good spot, a good place we want to be, but we've got to keep it going.
"We're not celebrating anything yet."
Still, colloquial veteran manager Clint Hurdle encourages his players to "enjoy the scenery — while traveling down the road of a season."
"There's been a handful of a games — mile-markers along way — that say, 'You know what, we've got a chance to be special,'" Hurdle said. "'We've got a chance to do something special.'"
Examples? Hurdle pointed to victories at Cincinnati, a division rival, on June 20, when rookie journeyman Brandon Cumpton started, and bullpen aces Melancon and Jason Grilli were unavailable; and to three days later, at Anaheim vs. the Angels, when Pittsburgh scored three in the ninth and four in the 10th to win.
The Pirates also won a game that took more than 6½ hours to play — counting a rain delay — on Sunday, with their bullpen tossing 10 shutout innings.
It's victories like those that support a belief that these particular Pirates are the ones destined to exorcise two decades of frustration.
Pitcher Charlie Morton, though, isn't buying into of that. He spent the first two months on the disabled list concluding recovery from Tommy John surgery and yearns to be part of a winner for the first time in his career.
"Everything that these guys have done has been earned," Morton said. "I don't see it as 'things are going our way,' or 'we're catching all the breaks.' I don't see that, you know?
"I see a team that's fighting for every inch and earning every win. I wouldn't classify it as luck. I wouldn't. Because that would be selling them short about what they've done so far."