It almost looks as if the baseball gods are teeing things up for the suddenly hot Pittsburgh Pirates, who host the lowly Oakland Athletics Monday in a series opener.
Pittsburgh is coming off a series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and have won five straight after a mostly miserable May. It wasthe Pirates' fourth series sweep, but their first since their strong April.
"We started the month (of June) off strong, and now we're just going to try and keep it going," closer David Bednar told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
It's likely that Bednar will remain in the cheerleader role at least for Monday after he pitched the ninth inning in each of the three games against St. Louis, earning a save in each.
The A's, the worst team in baseball, are coming off a series against Miami in which they lost the first two games by a combined 16-1, then blew a four-run lead Sunday to get swept with a 7-5 loss.
The A's have stocked up on young but inexperienced talent, and the growing pains have been profound.
They have won just two of 17 series, one of those wins coming last week against Atlanta. In that series, they won two games in a row, just the second time they have won back-to-back games, and the first of those games halted an 11-game losing streak. They have been swept nine times.
"It's kind of a perfect storm when you talk about young players being traded (here) and young players being in the big leagues," Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said.
"A lot of them on this team have come from different organizations. So it takes time for them to feel comfortable, for them to get their feet on the ground and start building chemistry, which is important, as well as coming to an understanding that they belong here.
"Performance doesn't determine whether they are here or they are in Triple-A. Our roster is built with guys we have acquired."
In the series opener, Oakland left-hander JP Sears (0-3, 4.37 ERA) and Pittsburgh right-hander Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.50) are scheduled to start.
Sears, who came over from the New York Yankees last year during his rookie season, has never faced the Pirates.
He has given up two or fewer runs in each of his past four starts but did not receive a decision in those games. He has eight no-decisions in all, among the most in the major leagues.
His last time out, Sears gave up one run and four hits in six innings Tuesday against Atlanta. The A's won that game in walk-off fashion, leaving Sears without a decision.
"The kid's getting more confident," Kotsay said of Sears. "For JP, his focus and concentration level, you can see it from pitch one. He's not going out there trying to survive; he's going out there and competing with confidence."
Oviedo, who has never faced the A's, has given up one run in three of his past four starts.
His last time out, he did not get a decision Tuesday as he gave up one run in 4 1/3 innings at San Francisco.
--Field Level Media