But things have been looking up for two of baseball's beleaguered franchises two months into the 2012 season.
The surging Pirates, who are on the Cincinnati Reds' heels for the National League Central lead, took the first of three games on Friday, defeating the Royals, 4-2.
After Friday's victory, the Bucs are now 10-3 in their last 13 games dating to May 25 -- the most wins among all Major League clubs during that span. The Pirates, who sit at 30-27, were playing .500 baseball and 5 1/2 games out of the NL Central lead at this point last year.
Manager Clint Hurdle attributes the improvement and recent surge to playing hard and smart -- blue-collar baseball he called it.
"The additions we made to the starting rotation make us stronger," Hurdle said. "In the bullpen, guys continue to be without ego. The challenges we had offensively and continued to battle through it, we didn't let it bog us down, there was no division in our core, everyone still rallied around one another."
Pittsburgh will send one of baseball's top pitchers, James McDonald, to the mound on Saturday. To date, McDonald is 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA.
The Royals haven't been as hot as the Pirates lately, but they've won seven of their last 12 games after dropping Friday's series opener at PNC Park.
Right-hander Vin Mazzaro gets the start Saturday for Kansas City after throwing six shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Athletics last Sunday. Mazzaro is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts this season.
Pirates: McDonald among league's best
McDonald heads into Saturday's game with the second-best ERA in baseball at 2.14. He ranks sixth with a .194 opponents' batting average and his WHIP is good for third at 0.95.
McDonald is 2-0 with a miniscule 0.86 ERA and 21 strikeouts in his last three outings. His ability to get out of trouble has been one of McDonald's best qualities this season, earning praise from Hurdle.
"He's been able to maintain his rhythm and remain aggressive," Hurdle said after McDonald's last start against the Brewers.
Royals: Paulino receives further treatment
The Royals traveled to Pittsburgh without injured right-hander Felipe Paulino, who stayed in Kansas City for additional treatment on a right groin strain. He exited Wednesday's game against the Twins in the first inning.
Paulino is slated to start Tuesday against the Brewers, but the team is still determining whether a stint on the disabled list is necessary.
General manager Dayton Moore is optimistic, but he said the club still isn't sure.
"We don't want to put him on the DL if he's only going to miss one start or two starts," Moore said.
Andrew McCutchen became the first Pirates player since 1992 to have at least 10 home runs and 10 steals through the team's first 55 games. Barry Bonds was the last to do so, hitting 14 home runs and stealing 17 bases at that point in the season.
Mazzaro is 0-5 against the National League.