A.J. Burnett was cruising along in his 16th start of the season for Pittsburgh. The right-hander was impressive through a few jams, and his veteran experience on the bump allowed him to continue to put up zeros.
In the first inning, Norichika Aoki took the first pitch from Burnett and ripped a leadoff double down the right field line. Former Bucco Nyjer Morgan pushed the right fielder to third base with a sac bunt. But Burnett was impressive in leaving the runner stranded. The right-hander made a great pitch at the knees to Ryan Braun to get him caught looking. Burnett struck out Aramis Ramirez, too, to strand the runner on third.
He took the field in the fifth inning at just 39 pitches, 29 for strikes with no walks and four strikeouts. He once again allowed a leadoff double to start the frame, but battled through and left the base runner stranded.
But two very big errors on the defense behind Burnett took away their lead as they saw the wheels come off in the sixth.
After tossing five scoreless frames, the Brewers plated four runs off Burnett in the sixth inning. After a single from Morgan, Ryan Braun followed with a single to right. Garrett Jones fielded the ball from Braun, but his throw to attempt to get Morgan at third sailed into left field for a throwing error. The big error cost the Bucs, as Morgan scored on the blunder. The next batter singled up the middle to push in the second run and take the lead.
Burnett notched his fifth strikeout, then allowed two more runs to score. A third run scored after Weeks ripped a hard liner off Pedro Alvarez’s glove that went into left field for a double. Martin Maldonado followed for the fifth hit of the inning with a double to right field. Burnett was finally able to settle down and retired his next two to end the rough inning.
Burnett was able to finish his outing up with a perfect seventh, and overall struck out seven over seven frames with no walks. But that one inning proved to be costly.
With one out in the first inning, Neil Walker singled to left field to extend his hit streak to 15 games. Andrew McCutchen took Yovani Gallardo deep for his 21st home run in the fourth inning. The All-Star has gone deep in four straight games and became the first Bucco to do so since Garrett Jones hit four straight from July 10-17, 2009.
McCutchen went on to pick up his third hit of the game in the 9th and now has 37 multi-hit game this season. McCutchen bumped his Major League average up to .371 on the season. But aside from that, the Pirates struggled at the plate against the Brewers.
The club struck out at least 10 times in each game of the series, 44 overall. Gallardo whiffed a career-high 14, which included the side in the sixth. The Pirates had won seven straight series against teams from the National League Central heading into this three game set. If they pulled out a comeback win, it would have given Pittsburgh its most consecutive series wins within its own division since winning 10 straight series against teams from the National League East in 1992.
Tabata Struggling Since Demotion to Triple-A
After Jose Tabata was demoted to Triple-A on July 4, he showed up in a good place. The Pirates decided to send the outfielder to Indianapolis to reignite his game and to get Tabata back on track. At the time of the demotion, he was hitting just .230/.295/.341 on the season.
Since joining Triple-A, Tabata has put up a .244/.295/.268 line over 10 games. The move to send Tabata to the minors could be for a bit of time due to his approach at the plate.
“I’m not keeping a close tab, other than I call [Manager] Dean [Treanor] every other day,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s no different when Tabata’s down there, or Tabata’s not down there. He said he showed up in a good place. Had a couple conversations with him. He’s out there playing, played center field a few games, hitting him at the top of the lineup, got caught stealing the other day. But they’ve got him plugged in, the kid is working hard and he’s playing.”
Presley Progressing Through Rehab Assignment
Outfielder Alex Presley began a rehab assignment last night with Triple-A Indianapolis and went 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored while leading off and playing in left field. Presley was placed on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion on July 3. He is expected to join the club at some point on the road in Colorado.