Good teams win the ones they have to.
Great teams win the ones they have no business winning.
Lately, the 2009 Tri-City Dust Devils are somewhere between these two categories. But this could be a great team without question. All the pieces are there.
One of the most impressive traits of this year's squad is it's ability to come back from early deficits with a late rally. The Dust Devils have done it 11 times in their 19 victories this season.
Another trait that serves Tri-City well is its bullpen, which has the ability to hold a lead through the mid- to late innings.
In a 2-1 win over Eugene on Sunday, the Dust Devils looked like they were all but done after failing to bring in Tim Wheeler after his leadoff double in the eighth inning. It was discouraging to say the least. And then when the Emeralds loaded the bases with one out in the 10th inning, it certainly looked like Tri-City had its back against the wall.
But somehow, the Dust Devils got it done.
Then, in a 9-6 loss Monday, Tri-City trailed 6-0 before cutting the lead to 6-5 in the seventh inning. Until Eugene's Vince Belnome put the game out of reach with a two-run homer in the eighth, it looked like the Dust Devils had enough momentum to overtake the Emeralds.
And this is a team that has been hurting offensively since the promotion of Scott Beerer and Michael Zuanich last week. Granted, taking away a team's top two offensive producers is going to sting, but the Dust Devils still have a lot of firepower in the lineup.
Believe me, Kent Matthes is going to get hot at some point. Joseph Sanders is going to find his swing. Ben Paulsen has been a great addition to the lineup at first base and is already swinging a good bat offensively.
Even though Tri-City has lost three of its last four games, I like the team's chances of picking things up again very soon. The pitching has been strong from top to bottom, and that's without Rex Brothers — the hard-throwing left-hander out of Lipscomb University.
The unspoken truth among Dust Devils coaches and players has been that the East Division is theirs to win. If pitching and defense wins championships, then there's no reason Tri-City shouldn't reach the Northwest League championship series.