A.J. Burnett received more than the usual acknowledgement from the 9,570 fans at PNC Park Wednesday night. He first heard cheers for reaching a milestone. He heard them again as his quest for another one fell short.
Burnett took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the Pirates' 5-0 win against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, dominating the Cardinals' lineup.
Burnett held the Cardinals hitless through 6 2/3 innings until Carlos Beltran doubled to right-center field to disrupt it. He threw seven scoreless innings without walking a batter and struck out eight.
Burnett was the losing pitcher in the previous no-hitter in Major League Baseball, when the Cincinnati Reds' Homer Bailey no-hit the Pirates at PNC Park on Sept. 28.
Burnett struck out his 2,000th career batter in the second inning when Beltran watched a 93-mph fastball for a called strike three. The Pirates infielders ran to the mound to issue Burnett a quick congratulations. Among active pitchers, only Andy Pettitte, C.C. Sabathia and Roy Halladay have more career strikeouts.
Burnett struck out four of the first nine batters he faced. He entered the game tied for the National League lead in strikeouts at 27 and now has 35 through 24 innings.
Burnett remained perfect through five with some help from Travis Snider. Yadier Molina drove a hard liner to right, but Snider ran in and made the diving catch.
Burnett's chance for a perfect game ended in the sixth, when he hit Daniel Descalso in the foot.
One batter before Beltran's double, Burnett flirted with trouble. Matt Holliday bounced a dribbler back to Burnett, who stumbled as he fielded it and barely got Holliday at first.
The Pirates found early success against Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller, a product of the Cardinals' minor league system. The 22-year-old Miller debuted last September, but made the rotation out of spring training, and fired out of the gates. He carried a 2-0 record, a 1.46 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings into Wednesday's start.
Opposing pitchers keep sending Starling Marte fastballs, and he keeps hitting them. Wednesday, he knocked Miller's second pitch off the right-field wall for a leadoff triple in the first. Snider's bloop single scored him and gave the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-out infield single in the sixth and went to second when Descalso's throw bounced into the stands. He scored on Neil Walker's single.
The Pirates scored once more in the seventh and twice in the eighth, when the Cardinals had to use three pitchers to escape the inning. McCutchen singled, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny opted to bring lefty Randy Choate in to face Garrett Jones.
Gaby Sanchez pinch-hit and doubled, scoring McCutchen. Pedro Alvarez's single, his first hit after an 0-for-11 stretch, scored Sanchez and the Pirates led 5-0.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 18, 2013 2:00 AM