The Pirates haven't scored a lot of runs for pitching ace A.J. Burnett, and Wednesday night brought more of the same.
Burnett left the game against the Detroit Tigers after six innings trailing, 3-1, and looking as if he was headed for his fourth loss in his past five starts.
Then, the bats came alive in the seventh inning, and the Pirates grabbed a come-from-behind, 5-3 victory before a crowd of 19,980 at PNC Park.
Neil Walker gave the Pirates (33-20) a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer, his second in the past two games and his fourth this season.
The Tigers (29-22) came right back in the fifth with three runs courtesy of an RBI double by outfielder Andy Dirks and slugger Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer.
Pirates pitchers had done a pretty good job of shutting down Cabrera the previous two games, but Cabrera made Burnett pay for a juicy fastball.
"I left it out there again but I probably should have made a little better pitch to [Cabrera]," Burnett said. "I started to feel somewhat of a groove in the middle innings, but then it got away from me again, It was one of those days where you just have to compete and do what you can do.
"You attack [Cabrera] like he is any other hitter, names don't matter. They are good hitters; we are good pitchers, too, so you make your pitch. I didn't make my pitch."
Burnett left for a pinch-hitter in the sixth after pitching six innings and giving up three earned runs, five hits, four walks. He struck out four and threw 60 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
It was good enough to give his team a chance to win, and that's exactly what happened as the Pirates stormed back with a big seventh to take the lead.
Manager Clint Hurdle said that Burnett's ability to battle and give the Pirates a chance to win even when he doesn't have his best stuff is why he is the ace of the staff.
"He is a pro," Hurdle said of Burnett, 3-5 this season and without a win since May 3.
"His responsibility is to set the tone for that entire rotation, regardless of what goes on around him. He focused on the game, focused on the next inning and gave us a chance to manage the game and stay in the game.
"Everything he has brought here has played out well for us; he has been the backbone of that rotation."
Garrett Jones started things off in the seventh with a one-out single and took second when Russell Martin walked. That put Pirates on first and second for Pedro Alvarez.
It seemed as if Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez was running out of steam, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland kept him in to pitch to Alvarez.
It turned out to be a mistake.
Alvarez, who had struck out his first at-bats, roped a double to left-center to tie the score as Jones and Martin scored.
Alvarez said his approach didn't change the third time he saw Sanchez. He was waiting for a pitch he could drive and, when he got one, he made sure he hit it.
"Nothing [changed], I was just ready to hit, and he gave me a pitch that was good enough to hit," Alvarez said. "The previous two at-bats, he pitched very well, and you have to tip your hat to him.
"You have to be ready and forget about the previous at-bats. I was ready to hit the fastball."
Sanchez the served up a double to Travis Snider that scored Alvarez and gave the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
A wild pitch moved Snider to third, and he scored the fifth run on a suicide-squeeze bunt by Jordy Mercer.
Snider said that the suicide squeeze was an extension of the Pirates' aggressive approach. "In that situation, everything was happening so fast and, for our coaching staff to slow the game down to say, 'Hey let's take a shot.' And hats off to Jordy for getting a good bunt down," Snider said. "As a runner, you just hope to get a good jump and not sell it too early."
Alvarez added: "Every run is monumental when you are playing a team like the Tigers, and that inning we did a lot of things. We stole, we hit-and-run and we squeezed, and I think it is characteristic of our kind of baseball."
Sanchez finally left, but the damage had already been done. Sanchez's record fell to 5-5 after he gave up seven hits and five earned runs in 62/3 innings.
Bryan Morris pitched the seventh for the Pirates and picked up the win to improve to 2-2. Tony Watson worked a scoreless eighth and Jason Grilli earned his 22nd save with a scoreless ninth.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @paulzeise First Published May 30, 2013 4:00 AM