Burnett Solid, But Bullpen Struggles in Loss to Atlanta

The Pittsburgh Pirates (8-11) lost to the Atlanta Braves (13-7) at Turner Field on Friday night. After battling in a one-run game through six innings, the Bucco bullpen allowed four runs to Atlanta in the 6-1 loss in game one of the three-game set.

The Pirates starting pitching continues to shine in 2012. Right-hander A.J. Burnett picked up his second quality start in as many outings since coming off the disabled list. The starting staff has combined for 11 quality starts so far — six straight — and no starter has allowed more than three runs in any contest.

Entering game action on Friday, the Pirates starting staff has posted a 2.58 ERA –which ranks second-best in the Majors trailing only the Washington Nationals (2.20 ERA).

Burnett allowed two runs on six hits over 6.0 innings. Burnett walked three and struck out eight while throwing 94 pitches, 57 strikes. The eight whiffs by Burnett tie righty James McDonald for the most in a single game by a Pirates starter this season.

Michael Bourn led off the first inning with a base knock to right field. But Burnett escaped the frame by striking out the side, two looking. Burnett recorded his 1800th career strikeout in the first. He is now just the seventh active pitcher with at least 1800 whiffs in the majors.

A leadoff walk to start the third inning ended up costing Burnett. After Tyler Pastoricky advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Tommy Hanson, he scored on a RBI single by Martin Prado, who struck out looking on a nasty curveball in the first.

For the second straight inning, Burnett allowed a walk to come around and score. This time with two-outs to Jason Heyward. After swiping second, Heyward scored on a RBI single by Pastornicky to take a 2-1 lead.

Atlanta plated four runs off the bullpen in the seventh inning. Lefty Tony Watson gave up a one-out single, then back-to-back walks to load the bases before being replaced by Evan Meek.  The right-hander gave up a two-run double to Dan Uggla. Chipper Jones drove in two more with a line drive single to left.

For the first time this season, the Pirates have allowed more than five runs in a contest. They set a record becoming the first club since the 1965 Bucs to not score or allow more than five runs over their first 17 games.

The Pirates lone run tied the game up at 1 in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen led off with a single up the middle. He quickly swiped his fifth bag of the season, and scored on an RBI single to right field by Garrett Jones. Back-to-back walks by Pedro Alvarez and Casey McGehee followed to load the bases, but catcher Rod Barajas took the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play to stop the rally.

Pittsburgh combined for just six hits against Atlanta, and after the rally in the fourth, the club only had two base runners — a two-out walk by Neil Walker in the sixth and a two-out free pass by Alvarez in the ninth — the remainder of the game.


Game Notes:

  • Relief — Tony Watson: 0.1 IP, H, 3R, 2BB; Evan Meek: 1.2 IP, 3H, R
  • Alex Presley extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 straight games with an infield hit in the 3rd inning.
  • Entering tonight’s action, only Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (six) has more home runs among Major League third basemen than Pedro Alvarez (four)…St. Louis’ David Freese, San Diego’s Chase Headley and Florida’s Hanley Ramirez have also hit four.
  • Pittsburgh has won three of its last four road games since dropping the first five games away from PNC Park in 2012. So far this year Pittsburgh’s 3.36 road ERA ranks fourth among all National League clubs behind the Nationals (1.96), Cardinals (2.43) and Phillies (2.83).
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  • Bob

    Barajas DP was terrible.  He just walked 2 batters in a row, why would you swing at first pitch?  If our catcher is going to hit under mendoza line we might as well just start FORT. 

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