A.J. Burnett took the mound at 84 pitches in the ninth inning at Great American Ball Park looking to notch his second straight complete game for Pittsburgh. Not since April 12 against the Phillies and April 17 against the Mets in 2005 had Burnett tossed back-to-back complete games.
After retiring his first two batters with groundouts, Burnett issued back-to-back walks on full count pitches as the rain started to pour in Cincinnati. Those two free passes broke up his span of 18 straight batters retired since the third frame. Manager Clint Hurdle elected to go to closer Joel Hanrahan after Burnett’s 102 pitch walked Ryan Ludwick in the 6-2 game.
Hanrahan got Todd Frazier to pop out to right field to end the game and notch his 32nd save of the season. Burnett was able to notch his 14th win of the season, which is tied for the lead in the National League and pushed his season ERA to just 3.19.
Burnett was impressive for the Pirates in his 20th start of the season. The right-hander has served as the club’s ace and had a huge impact both on and off the field, but on Sunday, Burnett served as the teams stopper helping Pittsburgh snap their two game losing streak against the NL Central leading Reds.
Over 8.2 innings, Burnett allowed just two runs on three hits. He walked three batters and whiffed seven while throwing 102 pitches, 64 for strikes.
With one out in the first inning, Burnett walked Drew Stubbs on a 3-2 pitch, and the center fielder quickly swiped second base. Jay Bruce followed by ripping a RBI double into right field to drive in the first run of the game. Former Bucco Ryan Ludwick was next, and singled to right to put runners on second and third. But Burnett and the Pirates were able to get Ludwick attempting to swipe second base for the second out. Burnett whiffed Frazier looking to end the first.
Burnett went on to retire six straight batters before using a game tying solo-homer to Drew Stubbs in the third inning. Stubbs took a 2-1 sinker to right field.
But that was where the Reds offense stopped, and Burnett clicked. Burnett retired 18 straight batters before issuing the two walks with two outs in the ninth, which pulled him from the game.
Burnett has won 13 of his last 14 decisions and has gone 14-3 in 20 starts in his first season with Pittsburgh. He is just four shy of his career-high 18 wins as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. The right-hander entered game action (since May 8) with the sixth-lowest ERA (2.58) in the Major Leagues and the fourth-lowest in the National League behind Ryan Vogelong (2.13), R.A. Dickey (2.50) and Jordan Zimmermann (2.52).
Walker, McCutchen Tie Career-High in Long Balls
Both Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen broke out the lumber against Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon belting the ball out of the ballpark — both of them matching their career-highs.
Walker connected for No. 12 on the season in the second inning. His two run shot tied his career-high in home runs. Walker also blasted 12 home runs in both 2011 and 2010. Walker went on to have a three hit day for the Pirates to push his season average to .292.
McCutchen’s big swing of the bat ended his home run drought. Not since July 17th had McCutchen hit the ball out of the ballpark. He did so to leadoff the top of the ninth inning for his first hit of the day. McCutchen tied his career-high 23 long balls that he set during the 2011 season.
The Pirates lead the Majors in home runs on the road at 79.
Marte Laces Big Hit for His First Major League Triple
Rookie Starling Marte came through with his first career triple — roped off the wall in right field. The extra base knock, which came on a two-strike, two-out pitch, drove in a pair of runs. It also snapped his 0-for-11 skid at the plate.
Marte went on to pick up one more hit and was also hit by a pitch in the eighth inning. When the Reds attempted to pick the speedy Marte off at first base, the wild throw allowed Marte to advance to second and continued on to third base. Third base umpire Brian Gorman called the outfielder out, despite the missed tag.
The 23-year-old is batting .238 on the season. He will make his home debut when the club returns to Pittsburgh on Monday for an 11 game homestand. It will also mark the home debuts of Travis Snider, Chad Qualls and Wandy Rodriguez, who were acquired by the trade deadline.