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06/27/08 6:32 PM ET

Bucs look to build on intensity

Sellout crowds generate energy at PNC Park

PITTSBURGH -- Utility man Doug Mientkiewicz opted to answer the question with an anecdote.

"The worst [scolding] I ever got as a big leaguer was from [former Minnesota manager] Tom Kelly," started Mientkiewicz. "We had beaten Pedro Martinez at Fenway, and [Kelly] came in and blasted us because of the intensity we showed against [Martinez] and not against everybody else."

And this becomes the challenge for the Pirates.

During the recent series against the Yankees, comments about a raised level of intensity were echoed by players throughout the clubhouse. Sellout crowds, they said, resulted in games being elevated, because, as Jason Bay said, "Everybody always says that when you've got the big crowds, you want to play well."

Well, after playing two games (and the beginning of a third that would later be rained out) in front of standing-room-only crowds, the Bucs begin the second half of the home portion of the season knowing that sellout crowds like those at PNC Park earlier in the week will be few and far between during the season's final three months.

Other than the three August SkyBlast dates and the makeup game between the Yankees on July 10, it's unlikely the Pirates will have a sellout on hand again this season.

That means that the Pirates are going to have the task of maintaining that increased on-field intensity through means other than crowd support. As Mientkiewicz illustrated with his anecdote, now that players have admitted to having raised their level of play, there's no excuse for letting that intensity dwindle moving forward.

"It's nice to see everyone elevate their game, don't get me wrong, but that's how we need to play every single night," Mientkiewicz said.

In terms of attendance figures for the team's series against the Yankees, the scheduled three-game set will actually only be officially recorded as a two-game series. The statistics from Thursday's game, which was played into just the top of the third, will not count toward season totals.

With 77,819 fans in attendance for the two completed games, the Pirates bettered the previous PNC Park high of 73,585, which was set back in May 2001 during a series against the Brewers. Tuesday's and Wednesday's attendance totals also go down in the books as the fourth and third highest totals, respectively, to date at PNC Park.

The Bucs entered the series averaging 17,504 fans per game this season.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.