The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be revisiting their April play now that May is behind them, which would be a good thing for them.
They can start June particularly strong if they can beat the visiting St. Louis Cardinals Sunday for a series sweep.
Pittsburgh erased a five-run deficit Friday ina 7-5 win, then held on Saturday for a 4-3 win. Those are the kinds of games the Pirates were winning during a hot April.
May was as miserable as April was exhilarating for Pittsburgh -- although things started to get back on a good track with wins in the final two games of May, giving the Pirates a four-game winning streak going into Sunday.
"We're just getting back to our identity, playing hard baseball," Pittsburgh outfielder Connor Joe, who had a two-run double Saturday, told ATT Sportsnet.
"And then what a job by the bullpen, to cover that many innings. That's Pirate baseball."
Joe was referring to the fact that the Pirates used eight pitchers in Saturday's win because starter Luis Ortiz did not return following an hour rain delay between the second and third innings.
That could affect the available Pittsburgh relievers Sunday, especially because it is a morning Peacock game.
But, hey, this is June, with a renewed outlook.
"To win four straight is great. A lot of energy," Joe said. "Winning a series is good, but sweeps are great."
St. Louis has had a nearly opposite story, starting surprisingly slow in April before showing signs of a team that seems to perennially be a National League Central contender in May.
But there seems to be some backsliding, as the Cardinals have lost four of five.
In the series finale, St. Louis right-hander Miles Mikolas (4-1, 3.75 ERA) is scheduled to start opposite Pittsburgh left-hander Rich Hill (4-5, 4.76).
Mikolas has taken it upon himself to be the Cardinals' stopper, something they could use Sunday.
He has won four decisions in a row and brings a team-best scoreless streak of 16 innings -- dating to May 20 -- into Sunday's game.
On Tuesday, as St. Louis stopped a two-game losing streak, he matched a career best with 10 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over Kansas City.
"I think it's one of the best feelings in sports to show up for your team when they need it," Mikolas said. "That's all my pride, and that's all I'm here to do -- win games. Yeah, I want my stat line to look good, but at the end of the day, if I start the game and we finish with a win, I'm pretty happy."
Not only has he gone 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA over his past nine starts, but St. Louis also has won in his past five starts, seven of his past nine.
Mikolas has faced Pittsburgh more than any other team. He is 5-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 20 games, 17 of them starts.
Following a three-game winning streak, Hill has lost two straight starts, most recently Monday when he gave up six runs and nine hits in six innings against San Francisco.
Hill is 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 career games, nine of them starts, against the Cardinals. He has not faced them since 2021.
--Field Level Media