AJ Burnett pitched another gem, just one out away from being a complete game. The Pirates’ offense woke up, and the final game belonged to them as they won, 6-2.
AJ struggled a bit in the 1st inning. He started off the inning with a flyout, but a walk to Drew Stubbs and a double by Jay Bruce made it 1-0 Reds. He gave up a single to Ryan Ludwick then, so the Reds had runners at 1st and 3rd with just 1 out. AJ buckled down, picked Ludwick off 1st, and struck out Todd Frazier. Inning over. “After the 2nd inning, he was just rock solid,” Clint Hurdle said. AJ gave up just one more hit, a homerun by Drew Stubbs in the 3rd. AJ Burnett retired 18 straight Reds batters after that, bringing him to the 9th inning with 2 outs. He walked the next 2 Reds batters on 6 pitches each. Clint Hurdle didn’t want to take any chances, so he brought in Joel Hanrahan to close it, who got Todd Frazier to fly out for the last out of the game. Hanrahan got his Major League-leading 32nd save. “AJ has done that before,” Hanrahan said after the game. “He’s kinda picked us up when we’ve been down a little bit. He was obviously disappointed he wasn’t able to finish it.” Andrew McCutchen called it “another tremendous job” by AJ. Neil Walker said, “[AJ]’s our ace; he’s our go-to guy. Games like today are what he gets paid to do. We feel pretty good about him on the mound.”
The Pirates’ offense started early. In the 2nd inning, Garrett Jones singled to lead off. Neil Walker followed that with a homerun to put the Buccos up 2-1. The Reds scored another in the next inning to tie it, but the Pirates came back in the 4th on a 2-run triple by Starling Marte. A 9th-inning solo homer by Cutch and error on a Rod Barajas grounder added some insurance runs. “It’s been a while,” Cutch said after the game. “I haven’t been feeling the greatest, but I’ve just been battling every day. I was finally able to get in front of one and get it out.” Rod had an alright day offensively, going 1 for 4, reaching on the error, and being the 3rd Bucco to be hit by a pitch in the series (Marte later became the 4th). Marte, Josh Harrison, Gaby Sanchez, and Clint Barmes each had 2 hits today, and Walker had 3.
The Pirates never retaliated for the 4 HBPs, aside from Jared Hughes shoving a baserunner in last night’s game and Reds batter Xavier Paul getting hit in the foot on a ball in the dirt. He also swung at that pitch: strike 2. “As the season goes along, the intensity starts to get at a fever pitch,” Neil Walker said. “But we’re not looking at these guys; we’re looking at the next series, and we’re playing pretty good baseball right now.”
“It’s way bigger outside this clubhouse than it is inside this clubhouse,” said Hurdle. “You only take care of one game at a time. We’re just gonna stay steady, we’re gonna hold fast, we’re gonna show up and play. That’s what we did today. We get out of here with a win and we head out of here.”
Cutch said that today’s win “shows that we didn’t give up. We played some pretty good games with them. Not gonna be able to win ‘em all. It was good that we were able to get one. Just gotta take it day by day and keep going out and playing hard. All we’re trying to do is win.”
The Pirates are looking to win a few against the Diamondbacks this week. Tomorrow, Erik Bedard (5-12, 4.83 ERA) will face Wade Miley (12-6, 2.98 ERA). I’ll be “reporting” from Pittsburgh, as I’m going to all 4 games. Let’s go Bucs!