Pirates starter A.J. Burnett took a shutout bid into the 9th inning and mound opponent Jeff Samardzija allowed a season-high eight hits to a lineup he usually dominates en route to a 6-2 Pittsburgh win on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
Burnett became the first Pirates starter to pitch into the 8th inning this season, tossing 8⅓ innings and allowing only four hits. The veteran righty took a no-hit bid into the 5th inning and a shutout bid into the 9th inning with the help off some strong plays in the field to earn the victory.
The slumping Pirates offense jump-started on Samardzija, scoring four runs off the Cubs starter who had previously never given up more than four hits in any outing against Pittsburgh. Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez each had two hits, including Alvarez launching a pitch completely out of Wrigley for his team-leading 13th home run.
It was a long time coming for the Pittsburgh lineup to help out Burnett, who had been the second-least-supported pitcher in the National League behind only the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco.
Here is how the Pirates scored their most runs in a game since May 16:
- 2nd inning – The Bucs turned on the offense quickly. Garrett Jones led off with a double then advanced to third base, and Pedro Alvarez knocked him in with a hard-hit single up the middle on a high slider. Neil Walker followed with a single, but Clint Barmes’ hitting into a double play denied any more early runs.
- 3rd inning – Starling Marte hit a sharp single to left-center with one out then stole second base, his 16th steal of the season. Travis Snider then hit a ground-ball single up the middle to make it 2-0. Samardzija then remembered he was Samardzija and struck out Andrew McCutchen and Jones.
- 4th inning – Russell Martin led off by drawing a walk. Pedro Alvarez stayed away from two outside pitches, fouled off two more, then hit the gas on a slider right down the middle to blast it onto the street beyond the right-field stands. It was 4-0 Pirates and officially the best the Bucs have ever performed against Samardzija. The starting pitcher settled down a bit following the homer, though. Samardzija ended up allowing eight hits and four runs over seven innings, but struck out seven hitters and walked only one.
- 8th inning – After Cubs reliever Zach Putman spelled out a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th by striking out the Pirates’ side, Hector Rondon entered the game. McCutchen battled to an eight-pitch walk with one out, then two batters later Russell Martin turned on a belt-high fastball and crushed it 10 rows deep into the left-center bleachers for his 100th career home run.
Burnett retired nine straight Cubs’ batters late in the game and was two outs away from the Pirates’ first complete game shutout since Burnett pulled off the feat last July at Wrigley Field. But Anthony Rizzo singled and Alfonso Soriano destroyed a curveball Burnett left over the plate for a two-run home run. That would be all for Burnett and he appeared to be visibly frustrated in the dugout when Tony Watson replaced him. Watson finished off the final two outs, though, and put the Pirates two-thirds of the way to a sweep of the Cubs.
The Pirates’ infield showed off their gloves for 11 groundouts to help out Burnett, including Walker charging up the middle, picking a groundball and throwing across his body while moving away from first base for Out No. 1 in the 6th inning. With two runners on later in the inning, Soriano smacked a hard grounder down the third-base line. Alvarez dived, caught it and pushed himself back up for a smooth throw to beat Soriano and end the inning. Make that three RBI and two runs saved for Alvarez on the afternoon.