Pirates starter A.J. Burnett delivers against the Miami Marlins.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sometimes warns against trying to do too much. Saturday night, the Pirates accomplished a great deal without doing much of anything at all.
Taking advantage of Miami Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano's battle against the strike zone, the Pirates sent 10 men to the plate in one inning and scored four runs without getting a base hit. They held on for a 5-1 win at PNC Park, their fourth victory in a row.
The Pirates remain in a tight race for the lead in the National League Central with the Cincinnati Reds. Saturday's win assured them of a series victory against the Marlins, improving their series record to 18-9-4.
The Pirates worked six walks against Zambrano, three of them in the decisive fourth inning. Zambrano threw only 48 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
The Pirates stranded two runners in both the second and third innings but took advantage of Zambrano in the fourth. Zambrano hit Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes with none out to put two men on. A.J. Burnett bunted, advancing the runners, but John Buck threw the ball away, allowing Barajas to score.
Zambrano walked Alex Presley to load the bases for Neil Walker, who hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored a run.
Zambrano walked Andrew McCutchen to load the bases, then walked Garrett Jones to score a run before leaving the game. Chad Gaudin replaced and walked another run in, but struck out two to end the inning.
Zambrano allowed five runs, four earned, in 3 1/3 innings, striking out two. He pounded the outside part of the zone against the Pirates, but often fell into three-ball counts. He had walked six batters twice this season and had 57 in 106 2/3 innings entering Saturday's game.
The lack of control hurt Zambrano from the start. For the second consecutive night, Presley worked a leadoff walk, seeing nine pitches from Zambrano in the process. For the second consecutive night, Jones drove him in from the cleanup spot. Saturday he did so with a ground ball to second, and the Pirates led, 1-0.
The Pirates struggled against Gaudin, who pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief with one hit and five strikeouts. By the time he entered, the damage was done, and Burnett ensured it stayed that way.
While the Marlins put batters on base, Burnett prevented the Marlins from reaching. He won his 11th game of the season and pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run on eight hits.
He needed only 80 pitches to get through six innings, helped by a double play in the second that limited his pitch count in the inning to nine. He made quick work of the fifth and sixth innings, needing only a combined 20 pitches, and finished with 104.
Burnett exited after allowing two hits in the eighth. The crowd of 39,411 roared as he raised his glove in appreciation. Brad Lincoln replaced him.
Burnett pitched at least seven innings for the second consecutive start.
Justin Ruggiano hit a 3-1 fastball over the Clemente Wall in right field for his seventh home run of the season in the second, tying the game at 1-1.
The win moved the Pirates to 13 games above .500, their best mark of the season.