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A.J. Burnett’s dud could end career on a sour note

Oct 3, 2013, 8:23 PM EDT

A.J. Burnett Getty Images

Despite another strong season in which he posted a 3.30 ERA and finished fifth in the NL with 209 strikeouts, free-agent-to-be A.J. Burnett is contemplating retirement this winter. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll want to go out like that, though.

Burnett was blasted for seven runs in two-plus innings Thursday in the Pirates’ Game 1 loss to the Cardinals. After starting off with a pair of scoreless innings, he retired none of the seven hitters he faced in the third.

The outing left the 36-year-old Burnett 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in eight postseason starts. He has two World Series rings anyway. The first came with the Marlins in 2003, though he didn’t pitch in October that year after Tommy John surgery. He also got one in 2009, when the Yankees won in spite of his struggles. Burnett did pitch well in his previous postseason start in the 2011 ALDS against the Tigers, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings and picking up a win.

The Pirates will probably go back to Burnett in Game 5 against the Cardinals if the series gets that far, though they’d certainly have him on a shorter leash in that one than they did today. Game 2 starter, Gerrit Cole, would also be able to pitch Game 5 on normal rest, which could set up a tough decision if Cole excels tomorrow. The Pirates are going to need him to if they’re going to have much of a shot at coming back in the series.

  1. ditchparrot19 - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    Why not go out like that? If he comes back and gets the ball in another big game next fall, it’ll be the same story – if not worse.

    He’ll be remembered as a guy with a lot of talent who did some good things, but folded up like a card table in pressure situations.

  2. steelers88 - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    I still don’t think his going to retire. Whether it be with the Pirates or not he will pitch for some MLB team in 2014.

  3. cardmagnet - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    You’re talking like the series is over. It’s only one game in. The Pirates are capable of winning 3, especially if they can manage to bag game two. Burnett could have another shot in the next round.

  4. steelers88 - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    Totally agree if Pirates can win tomorrow they have a great chance at winning this series. Especially going back home to play in front of that hostile crowd. I still think this series is going 4 or 5. Even if the Pirates don’t win tomorrow I still think they will take the two games at PNC. I’m not sure they will win the 5th game in ST. Louis though.

    • scruffmagee - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      I’ll give the Pirates game 3, but Wacha takes game 4 for the Birds. The Cardinals starters have quite a bit more composure than Cueto

  5. babyfarkmcgeezax - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Burnett did pitch a gem in the World Series a few years back against the Phils, after Cliff Lee had dominated the Yanks. I think the Phils would have won that series if not for Burnett’s game 2 performance.

  6. apkyletexas - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    Shame on Clint Hurdle for leaving him twisting out there when he clearly had nothing. You could see it even in the first inning – he wasn’t able to locate hardly anything.

    Didn’t matter – Wainright absolutely owned the Pirate bats. And the Pirate fielders were bobbling balls and making errors all over the place. AJ would have had to pitch a nearly perfect game to give them any chance at all. Hopefully, they all have a short memory, and can forget it and come back tomorrow.

  7. wvucolumbus - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    This series is over (and I’m a Bucco fan). That was an absolutely crushing defeat today. Young squads don’t respond favorably like a veteran-laden one. Cardinals are the Steelers of MLB (best overall organization) and are solid 1-9. We will have less than 5 hits (again) if we face Wainwrong in game 5 (which is likely not to be necessary).

    This series won’t ruin the magical season, however. So proud for the Black n’ Gold!

    • apkyletexas - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      Have you ever seen the scores from the 1960 World Series? The Pirates lost 3 games to the Yankees:

      16-3
      10-0
      12-0

      But the Pirates won the other four games by a total of 7 runs and won the Series, even though they were badly outscored. Blowouts only count for one win – unless you let them get to you mentally. Hopefully (and quite possibly) these young Pirates have short memories, and will rally behind their young stud pitcher Gerrit Cole tomorrow.

      If they can get back to Pittsburgh tied at 1-1, this blowout won’t really matter – the Pirates will have the home field advantage back, and can finish the series by winning out at home.

      • APBA Guy - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:31 AM

        The Pirates had Vern Law then, a stud pitcher in that series who held the Yankees spectacular offense in check, winning games 1 and 4 and surrendering only 6 runs in 15 + innings. He started again in game 7 and allowed 3 runs, being pulled in the 6th when 2 of those runs scored.

        The Pirates will need 1 or more of their pitchers to really step up and allow the offense to work. It can happen, even if they looked bad today. Wainwright can make anyone look bad.

  8. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    He should be fine going out like that. It was vintage AJ stuff.

    • pisano - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:13 AM

      mojo… exactly, vintage AJ, he and Liriano were bombed in the AL, so everything thing Pirates got from those two to this point is money in the bank. Good things don’t last forever.

  9. steelers88 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    How to you say this series is over? What if Cole comes out tomorrow and throws a gem? Then the Pirates have the upper hand. This Pirates team has bounced back from tough losses all season long. They will do it again.

  10. banger60 - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    it couldn’t happen to a better guy, the king of whip cream!

  11. perryt200 - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    it must be poor short term memories. what happened the last 3 game series the Pirates were in St Louis? it was less than a month ago.

    you have to peak at the right time to make a great run. The Pirates having to use their best pitcher to eliminate the Reds insured it wasn’t going to be them.

    The Cards winning the last 6 at home on the other hand….. You remember. Swept the Nats and the Cubs?

    if this series goes 4 games i will be surprised.

    and the Pirates did great this year. they lead the NL Central 56 days, they made the post season, earned a wildcard spot, they took the Reds out. and maybe in a few years they can think about looking farther.

    but regardless what the books say, most Cinderella stories don’t end well

  12. gatorprof - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Nice to see that the wax still melts under bright lights….

    – disgruntled Yankee fan

  13. stevem7 - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    What sour note? This is the same AJ Burnett that the Yankees got rid of and for the exact reason that the entire nation just saw. He is not a big game pitcher and never will be. He’s a head case who is more interested in cream pies than in stepping up and being THE MAN. Nothing new at all in the case of AJ.

  14. blynch67 - Oct 5, 2013 at 9:51 PM

    Yep… Typical AJ
    what a head case. he was an enigma for the Yanks too.

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