Two teams ready to turn the page to June meet Friday when the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates kick off a three-game series.
St. Louis, over the course of May, got back on track -- or at least started to -- after a miserable opening month. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, took a precipitous dip after a strong first month.
St. Louis sputtered to 19 losses in April. Even though May started with five straight losses, the Cardinals finished 15-13 in May and with a sense that the rough start is behind them.
"We were in a deep, dark place earlier in the month, a team-meeting kind of place," said starter Miles Mikolas, the winner Tuesday in a 2-1 victory over Kansas City that helped end St. Louis' first two-game losing streak since those first five games in May.
"We've definitely turned it around. I think our best ball is still to come."
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol agreed: "We've got more ground to make up, but we're just getting started. ... May was good, and we're going to keep going."
Pittsburgh hopes to get going again.
The Pirates won 20 games in April and at one point were 12 games over .500. Then came a 1-11 start to May. Things clunked along before wins Tuesday and Wednesday at San Francisco for their only series win of the month.
Because Pittsburgh is a rebuilding club, perhaps being one game over .500 (28-27) entering June isn't so bad.
"Obviously, after our start, it's not what you would have liked, but if you take a step back ... it's a pretty good start for us," outfielder Bryan Reynolds told mlb.com.
"Just have to build off these last two games and have a better June."
Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen told mlb.com he would rather a team have its bad month in May than later in the season.
"Two months in the books, I feel pretty good about where we are," he said.
The Cardinals are coming off their first scheduled two-day break since September 1978. That rest was well-timed for St. Louis outfielder Lars Nootbaar. He left Monday's game because of back spasms and is listed as day to day.
In the series opener, St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-4, 4.81 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Roansy Contreras (3-4, 4.33).
Flaherty is coming off a strong outing -- seven one-run innings Saturday against Cleveland -- but he did not earn a decision.
Flaherty has been strong against the Pirates throughout his career. He is 9-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 15 games, 14 of them starts.
It looked as if Contreras was going to have an indefinite stint in the bullpen, but that was before Vince Velasquez went back on the injured list after one truncated start.
Contreras pitched two scoreless innings in his first relief appearance of the year, Sunday at Seattle. Now he's back in the rotation, at least for now.
In his most recent start, Contreras gave up three runs in five innings on May 21 against Arizona. He did not get a decision in that game but has lost his past three decisions -- all three during Pittsburgh's miserable month of May.
Against the Cardinals, Contreras is 1-0 with a 4.43 ERA in five career appearances, four of them starts.
--Field Level Media