AJ Burnett made it pretty obvious last night that he doesn’t want the Pirates to throw him in the trash the way the Yankees did after he gave up 12 runs in less than three innings in his last start. Well, it was pretty hard not to forgive the guy after he pitched eight innings against the Nationals last night and struck out while just giving up two runs in the Buccos 5-4 win.
A win that probably wouldn’t have happened if Rod Barajas hadn’t saved the day and probably his job with a walk-off shot in the ninth after Joel Hanrahan blew his first save of the year.
Barajas has been absolutely miserable so far this year and last night he was just as bad through his first three at bats. He went down swinging his first time up, hit a weak first-pitch fly to center his second time up and fouled out to third on an 0-2 count in his third at bat. But with the Bucs down by one with two outs, and the game on the line in the ninth, Barajas launched a two-run shot to left to end it.
This game kind of had that feel that even though Burnett pitched a gem, the offense wasn’t going to get it done. Even when Neil Walker put the Bucs up 3-2 in the eighth with a sac fly that scored Nate McLouth, it still didn’t seem like it was over…it wasn’t. After Ryan Zimmerman singled to lead off Hammer Time, Adam LaRoche, who’s somehow hitting .323 in MAY, crushed a two-run bomb to dead center to put the Nats up 4-3. Now, it looked like it was over.
But that was before we found out how terrible Nats closer Henry Rodriguez was. The Buccos had three hits heading into the ninth; it shouldn’t have been hard to save the game with the backend of the order coming up.
Casey McGehee flew out to right to lead off but Alex Presley hit a pinch-hit single before Yamaico Navarro almost blew it – he looked like he was afraid of fast balls and fell into a quick 0-2 hole. But instead of throwing a third heater, Rodriguez decided to be cute and threw back-to-back curveballs that both ended up being wild pitches, allowing Presley to advance all the way to third…with one out. Needless to say, Navarro struck out on the next pitch – a fastball – and everything was up to Barajas. First pitch. See ya.
To be honest, I did not think the Bucs were going to pull this one out but this could be exactly the kind of game they need to get the offense going. Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones hit bushes earlier in the game and the Nats are one of the best teams in the NL right now so this win has confidence boost written all over it. Add to that Bryce Harper’s extremely average day (his most memorable play of the night was trying to throw out McLouth at home…from the warning track) and the Nats have to be feeling like garbage heading into tonight’s game.
Hoist the colors.