The Pittsburgh Pirates are making major strides in putting an end to their string of 19 straight losing seasons.
The National League Central co-leaders aim for a season-high fifth straight victory this evening in the first of three straight games against Baltimore Orioles.
The Pirates have compiled a 12-3 record over their last 15 games and have won five straight series for the first time since 1992, one year before their string of losing seasons began. Pittsburgh's current run has moved it into a tie with Cincinnati atop the division standings.
The Orioles have also been surprise contenders so far this season. They haven't made the postseason since 1997, but enter play tonight one game out of first place in the AL East.
Baltimore could also have an old face in the lineup for the first time since May 16, 2011 if Brian Roberts makes an appearance. Roberts has been out due to post-concussion symptoms and is expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list after wrapping up a 20-day rehab stint.
These two clubs have met just nine times in interleague play since the Pirates knocked off the Orioles in seven games to win the 1979 World Series. Pittsburgh owns a slim 5-4 edge since that encounter, but lost two of three in its only trip to Baltimore in interleague play in 2008.
The Pirates continued their hot play over the weekend by finishing off a three-game sweep of the Royals with a 3-2 win on Sunday. Andrew McCutchen drove in all three runs with an RBI double and a two-run homer to give Pittsburgh its fourth straight win.
"I haven't been feeling too great the last few days," McCutchen said. "But I figured a couple things out in the cage and was able to make it show forth today."
A.J. Burnett picked up the Pirates' sixth win in seven games after allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings on five hits and six strikeouts.
Brad Lincoln will try to follow up Burnett's gem with a victory of his own in his third start of the season and 16th appearance.
Lincoln made his first start of 2012 on May 14 and he got a win in Miami, holding the Marlins to a pair of runs over six innings. Following six relief outings, the right-hander made a start versus the Reds on Wednesday. He struggled in a loss, giving up five runs on six hits and two walks over four innings and 66 pitches.
"I got gassed," Lincoln told Pittsburgh's website. "I haven't gone that deep into a game in a long time. I struggled with my location in the fourth inning, got some pitches up into the zone."
On the season, the 27-year-old Lincoln is 3-1 with a 2.40 earned run average and will face the Orioles for the first time.
The Orioles picked up a series victory with Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Phillies in 10 innings. It marked Baltimore's club-record ninth straight victory in extra innings.
After hitting a walk-off two-run homer in Saturday's 12-inning victory, Adam Jones scored the winning run on Sunday on Matt Wieters' RBI double off the wall. Jones had reached first on an error by Philadelphia's Ty Wigginton.
"I knew if I was able to put one off the wall, Jonesy would be able to score with his speed from first," remarked Wieters about his game-winner.
Steve Tolleson crushed a three-run shot to tie the game in fourth while Ronny Paulino plated a run for the O's.
Baltimore will hope that Wei-Yin Chen can post a second straight victory in this opener. The left-handed rookie put together an 0-2 run and 7.31 ERA in three starts before a win at Boston on Wednesday.
Chen hurled seven innings of one-run ball, scattering seven hits without a walk. He struck out four and improved to 5-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 11 starts on the season.
The 26-year-old, who is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five home starts, made an interleague start at Washington on May 20 and was hammered for six runs over 4 1/3 frames in a loss.