Two of baseball's most unlikely All-Stars will face off in the opener of a three-game Interleague set, when Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke and Oakland's Bartolo Colon take the mound on Monday night at PNC Park.
Colon, a 16-year veteran, is 11-3 with a 2.78 ERA this season, already his highest wins total since 2005.
Locke made just 12 career appearances before this season, but came out of Spring Training as the Pirates' fifth starter. He hasn't lost since April 7, his first start, and has surrendered just two earned runs in his last 25 innings at PNC Park. Locke allowed two earned and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday, but was able to navigate through a few jams to help the Bucs post a 6-5 win over the Phillies.
"A night like tonight, when they're hitting the ball pretty hard and finding some holes, you've just got to try to stay consistent," Locke said. "Don't teeter away from what you do well."
The Athletics are 9-0 all-time against the Pirates. The two clubs last met in 2010 at Oakland. However, the circumstances are much different. The Pirates are no longer a doormat for either league.
But the A's have been as solid a club as any this season, sitting atop the American League West. Colon has had a lot to do with that, winning eight straight starts prior to a 3-1 loss to the Cubs last time out.
Colon was the A's lone All-Star selection -- his first nod since 2005, when he won the American League Cy Young Award with the Angels.
"I feel extremely happy about it," Colon said through A's coach and interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I believe it's all about the work that I've been doing, since even before the season started. I thank the Oakland A's for giving me the opportunity to be part of them."
Athletics: Balfour could fill All-Star spot
Colon will likely be unavailable for the American League All-Star team with a start scheduled for Sunday, so his teammate, closer Grant Balfour, could be a candidate to fill the spot.
Balfour has converted all 22 of his save opportunities, posting a 1.82 ERA and 1.096 WHIP over 34 2/3 innings. His current streak of 40 in a row ties him with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for the club record set in 1992.
"I don't know that for sure, but we're obviously hopeful for that," manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday's game against the Royals. "It's no fun being in [AL All-Star manager] Jim Leyland's shoes, and he really doesn't get to pick that many. But it is what it is."
Pirates: Walker sits with discomfort in side
Second baseman Neil Walker left Saturday's game against the Cubs with discomfort in his right side and sat out Sunday's series finale. He didn't take batting practice, either, giving the injury a full day to heal.
Walker is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday in Pittsburgh and said he believes the injury isn't too serious. Brandon Inge played second base and went 0-for-4 on Sunday.
Walker has a .244/.347/.384 slash line this season with six homers and 26 RBIs. He spent two weeks on the disabled list in early May with a dislocated finger.
• The Pirates open a six-game homestand on Monday. Following the All-Star break, they'll head to Cincinnati to start a 10-game road trip.
• Locke is 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in three career starts against AL teams.
• Colon was selected to his third All-Star Game. It's Locke's first.
• The Pirates have gone 8-5 against the three division leaders they have played this season -- Arizona, Atlanta and Detroit.
• The A's are 35-18 in night games and 17-19 during day games. All three games of this series are evening affairs.
Steve Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.