One of the most nerve-wracking games in a while. As A.J. Burnett got closer to pitching a no-hitter, Pirate fans sat on the edge of their seats with every pitch. With two outs in the eighth, Burnett finally gave up a hit, but finished the game to finish a dominant complete game shutout.
The excitement began even before Burnett threw a pitch. The Bucs loaded the bases in the first (including an infield single by Travis Snider) for Neil Walker, who hit his second career grand slam. His first one, as we all know, also came at Wrigley on Opening Day 2011. Pedro Alvarez followed with a double down the LF line, but was stranded at second.
In the third, Cutch led off with a single, and got to third when Garrett Jones executed a hit-and-run perfectly. With runners on the corners, Walker bounced out, and Cutch was thrown out at the plate. So with runners on first and second, Pedro squared up a pitch and laced it to deep CF. The fielder couldn’t make the over-the-shoulder catch, but Jones was just a few steps away from second. Walker was already rounding the base, and Jones had to hold up at third, where Walker was tagged out. Pedro, who easily could have had a double, had to retreat back to first and settle for a single. Watching this was so painful, and it was clear Jones was clueless out there. He should have gone halfway with only one out, or he could have MAYBE been tagging. But for some reason, he was doing neither, and was four steps from second. Pedro did end up at second when the ball ended up at third, and after a walk the bases were loaded. With two outs, Barmes couldn’t cash in, so the Pirates managed three hits and a walk, but couldn’t score. Walker added a sac-fly in the seventh, and that was it for the offense. They should have scored at least eight runs off of Casey Coleman, who was starting in place of Ryan Dempster (traded to Texas), but that’s not the story of the game.
Burnett was absolutely dominant. He carved up the Cubs all night long. His breaking ball was breaking beautifully, especially down and in to lefties. He was spotting his fastball on the corners all night, and just couldn’t be hit. Through seven innings, A.J. had just given up two walks, and had thrown just 80 pitches. He retired the first batter in the eighth, and then plunked Darwin Barney in the head. With the no-no still in tact, he struck out the next batter, and Adrian Cardenas came in to pinch-hit. Burnett got the count to 1-2, and spotted a fastball just inside to the lefty – a close pitch, but definitely a ball. The then snapped off a 2-2 curveball, which looked like it broke in time to get over the plate. It was called a ball, though, and Cardenas roped the payoff pitch into RF for the first hit of the game. A.J. got the last out of the eighth, and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to get the CG shutout.
As disappointing as it was that Burnett couldn’t get the no-hitter, it was still a heck of a game. The offense was able to get a bunch of guys on, but some bad baserunning cost them a few runs. Cutch went 3-5 with a double, and Pedro went 2-3 with a walk. A.J. was masterful, turning in the exact start the Bucs needed to stop the skid they were on. He ended up with eight strikeouts, and needed just 108 pitches. Hopefully this will get them rolling on a nice streak, and they can get some momentum heading into Cincinnati. Rubber match is tomorrow at 2:05.
Pirates (59-44) – Cubs (43-59)
Win: Burnett (13-3)
Loss: Coleman (0-2)