Seattle starter Felix Hernandez lived up to his dominant billing as the Mariners beat the Pirates, 2-1, this afternoon at PNC Park.
Former Cy Young winner Hernandez allowed one run on six hits in eight innings, striking out five batters to earn his fifth win of the season.
The Pirates (18-15) got their own strong start from A.J. Burnett, who allowed two earned runs on two hits in seven innings. He struck out nine and walked four but took home his third loss of the season.
Burnett's worst pitch of the day came on his 100th, when he elevated a first-pitch fastball to Jesus Montero and then watched it sail into the seats beyond the center field wall.
Montero's third home run of the season gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead, giving Seattle some separation in a pitcher's duel.
The Pirates wasted an opportunity to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning.
Jordy Mercer led off the inning with a double down the right field line. He advanced to third when Clint Barmes lined out to right field -- after Barmes attempted to bunt him over.
But he was stranded when the next two batters struck out, including Burnett while trying to bunt.
The Mariners (16-19) weren't much more successful with a similar opportunity in the following half-inning.
With Michael Saunders on third base with one out, Burnett got Kyle Seager to ground out sharply to second base and struck out Montero to end the threat.
Burnett was brilliant early, retiring the first nine batters he faced -- striking out five of them -- on 32 pitches in three innings.
But he let the Mariners tie the game in the fourth without giving up a hit.
He allowed his first baserunner in the fourth inning when he walked leadoff batter Saunders. That was the start of some control issues for Burnett in the inning. He threw a wild pitch, allowing Saunders to advance, and walked former Pirate Jason Bay to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Burnett almost finished the inning unscathed. But a borderline 2-2 fastball to Dustin Ackley with two outs missed inside.
The next pitch was another wild one, a curveball in the dirt that bounced away from catcher Michael McKenry. Saunders scored on the play to tie the score, 1-1.
It was only the second time since Burnett joined the Pirates last year that McKenry caught Burnett. Russell Martin missed a second consecutive game with a stiff neck.
Burnett threw 29 pitches in the fourth inning alone. He stranded Chavez by getting Robert Andino to ground out to second and Hernandez to strike out for the second time in the game.
The Pirates took advantage of some early uneasiness from Hernandez to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Starling Marte led off the inning with a double down the left-field line. Two batters later, Andrew McCutchen smacked a single off the pitcher's mound and through the middle of the infield, scoring Marte.
But the Pirates missed a good chance to further inflict damage.
After Hernandez walked Garrett Jones to put runners on first and second with one out, he got Michael McKenry to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and on Twitter: @msanserino. First Published May 8, 2013 7:30 PM