To say the Pirates have been struggling lately would be a bit of an understatment. Going 4-4 over their last eight against the Astros and Cubs was down right embarrassing. The Pirates needed a win last night to help right the ship and AJ Burnett was just the man to do it – hey, he is 5-1 when he pitches the night after the Buccos lose.
But what Burnett did last night for the Bucs wasn’t just impressive because he picked up his MLB-second best 13th win, it was IN.CRED.IBLE. Burnett gave the Bucs the win they needed, and he did it by pitching the best game of his life. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and would have had his second career no-no had it not been for some god awful umpiring. Instead, Burnett had to settle for a 5-0 1-hit complete-game shutout.
Burnett got it done with just 108 pitches and walked only 2 Cubs while striking out 8. His Uncle Charlie was just killing batters. He was perfect through 3.2 innings and K’d at least one batter in each of the first five innings. As soon as the game hit the eighth, everyone thought he had it; his pitch count couldn’t have been lower and he was just in the zone. Then, empire Jeff Nelson screwed him behind the plate. After a lead-off ground out, Burnett plunked Darwin Barney in the head when a pitch got away from him, and then Burnett K’d the next batter to bring up rookie Adrian Cardenas.
Burnett had him 1-2, and then threw one that was borderline inside called for a ball. He followed that by painting the outside edge that most definitely should have rang up Cardenas but Ump Nelson decided to side with the rookie who had 38 career at bats instead of the 13-year vet chasing a no-hitter. Cardenas singled to right on the next pitch and ruined everything. Burnett was pissed. I was pissed. Everyone was pissed.
He K’d David DeJesus to end the inning and he was perfect again in the ninth, and ended the night by K-ing Alfonso Soriano on 3 pitches. Even with that 1 F-ing hit, this was the best game we’ve seen by a Pirates’ pitcher this year. Now, it’s time for MLB to recognize what Burnett’s been doing this year and start mentioning his name in some Cy Young talk. Only RA Dickey has more wins than Burnett and Johnny Cueto is the only pitcher with as many wins with a better ERA, and then there are the 9-straight wins. He at least needs to be in the conversation.
You know it was a damn good night when Neil Walker supplied all 5 of the Bucs runs and we didn’t even talk about him. He gave Burnett the only support he needed when he hit his second career grand slam in the first inning – we should have known it was going to be a good night – and then hit a sac fly in the seventh to score the new guy, Travis Snider. I’m still all jacked up.
Hoist the colors.