The 5 first-inning runs and AJ Burnett’s quality start were just enough to give the Pirates a 5-4 win this afternoon in Philadelphia. The Pirates were able to split the series with the Phillies, giving them a win in the season series.
Drew Sutton led off the game with a single, and Neil Walker followed that with a walk. Andrew McCutchen flied out, but a Garrett Jones single drove in the first run of the game. Back-to-back homers by Casey McGehee and Pedro Alvarez made it 5-0, and the Pirates kept the lead. After the first inning, Kyle Kendrick gave up just 2 more hits, keeping the Pirates scoreless through the rest of his 7 innings of work. “I think it was just location,” Casey McGehee said after the game. “He started executing some pitches, getting the ball down.” Asked about his improvement at the plate, McGehee said he’s not trying too hard anymore, “just trying to stay with my approach, just trying to put some good swings on the balls.”
I was slightly nervous going into the game to see how AJ Burnett would work with a catcher other than Rod Barajas. Lifetime, Burnett is 24-9 with Barajas behind the plate and just 3 games over .500 with any other catcher. Burnett was fine, giving up just 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks over 6.2 innings. He struck out 7, and his 8th straight win tied Doc Ellis’ 8-game winning streak from 1971. When asked about McKenry after the game, Burnett said, “I was really impressed today with McKenry. He did a great job. I only shook him off once or twice. He was outstanding. I can’t say enough about him.” Burnett admitted that the last time pitching to McKenry (after Rod Barajas’ May 2 ejection) was rough, but today was much smoother. According to Burnett, McKenry talked to Rod more than to him as he prepared for today’s game.
Burnett got 2 quick outs in the 7th inning, but a walk to Jimmy Rollins ended Burnett’s day. Juan Cruz came in, walked one, then got Shane Victorino to fly out to end the inning. The Phillies’ runs came on a 2-run homer in the 2nd by Erik Kratz (who was with the Pirates’ AAA affiliate last year), a Placido Polanco forceout in the 6th, and a Hunter Pence homerun against Grilli in the 8th. It was the only run Grilli gave up, and Joel Hanrahan pitched a 1-hit 9th inning to get his 20th save. “It was a fun series,” Hanrahan said after the game. “Any time you come away .500, that’s a good thing.”
Today’s win put the Pirates at 40-35 and 1.5 games out of 1st place. The Cardinals are off today, and the Reds play later tonight in San Francisco.
The Pirates go to St. Louis tomorrow to take on the Cardinals. Kevin Correia will face Adam Wainwright at 8:15 PM. Maybe Rod Barajas will be back.