A.J. Burnett took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Wednesday as the Pittsburgh Pirates went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0. Burnett was dominant on the way to his first win of the season after only allowing one hit.
Cardinals’ outfielder Carlos Beltran broke up Burnett’s no-hit bid with a double in the seventh inning. Burnett then got Yadier Molina to fly out to center for his final out of the game before being relieved.
The 34-year-old struck out eight in the game and walked none as the Pirates have now won four of their last five. Outside of almost completing a no-hitter, Burnett recorded his 2,00oth strikeout of his career in the second inning.
The Pirates jumped out to an early lead when Travis Snider drove in Starling Marte with a single in the first inning. Cardinals’ starting pitcher Shelby Miller settled down after the first and pitched four consecutive scoreless innings before the Pirates added to their lead.
Neil Walker made it 2-0 Pirates with an RBI-single in the sixth and Russell Martin scored in the seventh off a throwing error from Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese. The gap grew larger in the eighth when Gaby Sanchez doubled in Andrew McCutcheon and Pedro Alvarez followed by driving in Sanchez.
With a 5-0 lead, the Pirates bullpen shut down the Cardinals and didn’t give up a hit over the final two innings. Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless eighth inning before Tony Watson and Jason Grilli finished off the Cardinals in the ninth.
The Pirates win Wednesday brings them back to .500 baseball with a 7-7 record. Pittsburgh is currently in third place in the NL Central and only a game back of the Cardinals for the top spot.
The Pirates now move on to a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves at home before embarking on a 10-game road trip. The Braves are the hottest team in the MLB right now, though their 10-game winning streak was snapped by the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.
A.J. Burnett’s career has had it’s ups and down after he came into the league as one of the most promising young pitchers at the time. Burnett spent seven years with the Marlins before making a name for himself with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Burnett’s success with the Blue Jays led to a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees. He struggled at times with the Yankees but managed to win a World Series in 2009.
The Arkansas native has returned to true form after signing with the Pirates last season. He posted a 16-10 record as the Pirates’ ace last year for his most wins in a season since 2008 with the Blue Jays.
The Pirates are off to decent start in 2013 but Burnett hasn’t received run support in his first few starts. Pittsburgh scored a total of one run in his first two outings and he received a no-decision in his third start before the win on Wednesday.
Can A.J. Burnett carry the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching staff throughout the season as they look to keep pace in the NL Central?
[Image via Keith Allison]