CLEVELAND - It wasn't long ago that the finish line to the 2020 season felt excruciatingly far away for the Pirates, the two-month sprint switched back into a marathon because things had gone so poorly.
Now, it looks like the Pirates are energized and would rather keep playing after finally getting the offense and defense to match the exemplary starting pitching they've enjoyed over the past dozen games.
In fact, after Saturday's 8-0 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field, it's interesting to think what would happen to the Pirates if the season was extended another month or so.
Would things even out? Would the Pirates be more competitive? Manager Derek Shelton thinks so.
"I think we would have been a different team to watch," Shelton said. "We're seeing a lot of encouraging signs. And when you see more encouraging signs, you wish you had more games to see how this would play out.
"I'm not saying by any stretch of the imagination that we would be in the playoffs or win the World Series, but I think our record would indicate that we're getting better."
And that, really, is what this should be about at this point.
Nobody is saying that winning four of five changes the fact that the Pirates will, in all likelihood, own the first pick in the 2021 MLB draft. They've come by that mark honestly. They've struggled and deserve criticism for not performing well enough in certain areas.
But give them credit, too: They've shown lately that there might be something worth feeling good about over the offseason and looking ahead to 2021, and much of that was on display Saturday.
Rookie phenom Ke'Bryan Hayes had five hits, the Pirates (19-40) smashed three home runs, and Joe Musgrove delivered yet another stellar start for this staff, helping the Pirates to win for just the third time in 19 tries against the American League Central this season.