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A.J. Burnett pitches Pirates within one game of home field advantage in the NL Wild Card playoff

Sep 27, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT

a.j. burnett getty Getty Images

Pirates starter and potential upcoming retiree A.J. Burnett shut the Reds down over eight solid innings of work, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk while striking out six. The lone run came on a Todd Frazier solo home run in the fourth.

Homer Bailey wasn’t sharp, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three in five innings. The Pirates scored twice in the third on Marlon Byrd‘s two-run single to left and twice in the sixth on Pedro Alvarez‘s two-run homer. The Cincinnati bullpen did their part to keep the game close, but Burnett was just too good, lowering his ERA on the season to 3.30.

Jason Grilli entered the game in the ninth and worked around two lead-off singles to record his 33rd save of the season.

The win moves the Pirates to 92-68, two games ahead of the Reds, meaning that a win either tomorrow or Sunday will give the Pirates home-field advantage in the NL Wild Card playoff game. As Travis Sawchik explained in a column posted last night, home-field advantage could prove to be an important asset to the Pirates specifically. Francisco Liriano projects to be the starter and he carries a 1.47 home ERA compared to a 4.32 road ERA.

  1. aceshigh11 - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    The feel-good story for the Pirates continues…

  2. apkyletexas - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    Got to give it to AJ – these last two starts, he’s been an absolute beast.

    I wonder if the Yankees could have used 29 starts, 191 innings, 209 strikeouts, double digit wins, and a 3.30 ERA from a right-handed pitcher this year? Nah – they’ve already got Phil Hughes. They’d clearly prefer to pay AJ to pitch for someone else.

    • dan1111 - Sep 28, 2013 at 7:54 AM

      Yeah, but he Couldn’t Handle New York ™. Didn’t you know that playing baseball for the Yankees is a completely different skill than playing anywhere else on the planet? The mystique is so thick that it’s nearly impossible to throw a ball through.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 28, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        NEW YAWK?

    • jm91rs - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      I don’t know the reason, but the dude really did suck for the Yankees. Glad he’s been able to resurrect his career.

      • apkyletexas - Sep 28, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        Yeah I see what you are saying – 3 years pitching, one losing season, one winning season. Total record of 34-35. Must have been the worst Yankee’s pitcher ever. I’ll bet you are much happier this year with Phil Hughes’ 4-14 record and 5.19 ERA.

    • cur68 - Sep 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      My impression of Burnett on The Yankees was Jorge Posada calling nothing but fastballs if there was a man on 1st. Perhaps Posada was desperate to gun down runners and needed the FB to make it work since he was past it and couldn’t throw as well anymore? No idea if that was true or not, but it was damn puzzling. If there was no one on, he and Burnett rarely seemed to work together. I don’t know who’s fault that was, but the look of disgust on Burnett’s face as called-for breaking pitches were called balls was plain to see. Burnett’s a FB pitcher, with great stuff when allowed to use it. His breaking stuff tends to be in the dirt, too. So, knowing that the pitch was GOING to be a breaking pitch was an advantage to the hitter since Posada never seemed to want to rely on that FB. He was always calling breaking pitches till Burnett was in a 2 strike count THEN he’d call FB and of course Burnett would get hit.

      There was a stark difference when it was Molina catching Burnett over Posada. Molina catching saw Burnett allowing batters a measly .221 BA & .658 OPS. In his last stretch with Molina, AJ posted a 1.88 ERA in his final four appearances, and struck out 28 batters in 24 innings. With Posada? Well, lets just say that dudes were hitting .270 off Burnett with a .775 OPS when Posada was behind the plate.

      What was wrong with AJ Burnett in New York? Dunno, really. But my money is on who was calling the pitches rather than the guy throwing them.

      • apkyletexas - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        This makes sense. AJ has had a “favorite” catcher each year in Pittsburgh,who works with him every game. Last year it was Rod Barajas, who was pretty much the worst catcher in the league in terms of handling the bat and picking off runners. But AJ loved the way Rod called a game, and the two had a lot of success together in 2012. This year, his catcher has been Russell Martin (who was his favorite catcher his last year in New York).

        I guess if you get burned by a guy like Posada, you learn to pick a catcher in spring training and demand that the manager give him to you every game for the rest of the year.

  3. nbjays - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    Couldn’t handle New York? Is THAT what’s wrong with Hughes and Joba?

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 28, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      NEW YAWK?

  4. totallysirius - Sep 28, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Not taking anything from Burnett’s performance, he did pitch a great game, but the way the Reds were batting, my grandmother could have beaten them.

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 28, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      Watch that Granny doesn’t go for the PED’s.

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