MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Uh don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are winning baseball games — quite a few of them, in fact; and on top of that, they expect they’ll be winning some more. Plenty more.

They’re a fun team to watch.

The Pirates completed a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday to improve to 12-7 and trail first-place Milwaukee by two games in the National League Central.

The Bucs’ Wednesday victory was a 14-3 pounding of the Rockies in gaining their first sweep in Denver since September 2019. It was the second sweep of the season by the most surprising team in baseball.

The Pirates have been just pounding the ball, as they scored 33 runs in the three-game sweep in Denver, which is the most they have scored in a three-gamer since putting up 34 against the Padres in 2000. They hit the ball hard, too, and haven’t missed a beat since their hardest-hitting player, the sensational Oneil Cruz, went out with a fractured left ankle.

Starter Johan Oviedo pitched six strong on Wednesday, giving the Bucs their ninth consecutive quality start. On Thursday, as the Pirates improved to 13-7 with a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds, Roansy Contreras pitched 6.2 innings, giving up one earned run and striking out eight for the Bucs’ 10th consecutive quality start.

Read that again: 10th consecutive quality start. That’s the first time that’s happened in Pittsburgh since 2015.

The cynics chuckled when the Pirates brought 36-year-old Andrew McCutchen back as though it were Babe Ruth’s farewell tour as a washed-up Boston Brave, but McCutchen has shown there’s still plenty of the magic left, and he and veteran pick-up Carlos Santana have meshed well and provided the quality leadership the club had been seeking for their talented young players such as outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who is already a proven veteran, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes as well as Cruz before he was injured.

It was hardly noticed when the Pirates acquired proven hitter Ji-Man Choi, but again, these are guys who have been there before and who know how to produce, be professional and win. That rubs off on talented young players who have yet to be shown the way.

Not only that, veteran starter Rich Hill is an innings-eater, and though the process may seem slow when it comes to Hill, he is reliable and will lead the young starters by example and results.

These guys are gaining confidence with each new game, and it’s showing. What is also showing is the Pirates not only want to win, they expect to win. I wouldn’t put it past them.

They’re fun.

THE OAKLAND ATHLETICS, also known as the A’s, have entered a land purchase agreement for an area near the Las Vegas Strip, finalizing their plans to leave the Oakland area by 2027. Thus, the A’s say they will end talks with local officials concerning the construction of a new ballpark, which is sorely needed for the A’s to remain the last major professional sports team in Oakland.

Should this come to fruition, yes, it will be sad to see another city lose its sports team, particularly Oakland, whose fans, not to mention the A’s, have been stuck with that sewage plant of a stadium, the Oakland Coliseum, which has all of the ambience of a federal prison. I know; I’ve been there — the Oakland Coliseum, that is.

The only thing local officials have ever done for the Coliseum is ruin it as a means to get Al Davis and the Raiders back to Oakland, and that certainly worked out well in the long run, didn’t it? The Coliseum was a pretty nice ballpark for baseball in the 1980s, but not after they built those gawdawful seats in center field, not so affectionately known as Mount Davis, to appease Davis and the Raiders.

Again, it’s unfortunate, because the A’s clearly need a new place to play to try to make some money. Yet this move would be nothing new to the Athletics franchise, as it’s been on the move quite a bit in its history.

The Athletics’ name originated from the term “Athletic Club” for local gentlemen’s club and dates to 1860 when an amateur team, the Athletic (Club) of Philadelphia, was formed. The team later turned professional through 1875, becoming a charter member of the National League in 1876 before being expelled from the N.L.

The Philadelphia Athletics then became one of the American League’s charter franchises in 1901 and they won five World Series championships, including back-to-back in 1929-30 under manager/owner Connie Mack with Hall of Fame players Lefty Grove and Jimmy Foxx.

The team left Philadelphia in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics and served as little more than the New York Yankees’ so-called farm team, even though they remained an American League team.

Then they moved to Oakland in 1968, where they won three straight World Series titles in 1972-74 with the likes of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers, before winning three A.L. pennants in a row and the 1989 World Series behind Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, aka the Steroid Twins, along with Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley and manager Tony LaRussa.

The A’s, along with current general manager Billy Beane, were also the subject of the great book and movie, “Moneyball.”

So, again, while disappointing, the pending move of the A’s to Las Vegas is not only understandable, but nothing new in the history of this franchise. This one, if it happens, just took a little longer to materialize, even though the threat and the possibility have long been on the table.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT