SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Burnett had a lead before he took the mound Tuesday night. After that, his usual serving of fastballs and knuckle curves did the trick.
Burnett rebounded from two mediocre outings during the Pirates' 8-1 win against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, their second win in a row. The St. Louis Cardinals' loss Tuesday night meant that the Pirates took a two-game lead in the NL Central.
The Pirates pounded six extra-base hits and ended Padres starter Tyson Ross' hot streak. The Padres' bullpen made a mess of things in the seventh and allowed the Pirates to score five runs in the inning. For the third time this season, the Pirates had three triples in one game.
"It was fun to see everybody in this room contribute," Burnett said. "That's what's going on right now."
Neil Walker went 2 for 4 with a home run and Gaby Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a double.
Burnett (6-8) allowed one run on four hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts. Pirates starters have pitched seven innings in three consecutive games.
"We've had some games, spent a long time on the field," Burnett said. "Give those guys some rest down there [in the bullpen]. We're going to need them in a month."
In his two previous starts since throwing a complete game against the Colorado Rockies Aug. 4, Burnett allowed 10 earned runs on 16 hits in 10 innings.
"He's not pleased with how things have finished the last two times out," manager Clint Hurdle said before the game. "He's a veteran guy. He knows what he needs to feel, he knows what he needs to do."
Burnett started the Padres' frustration early in the evening, when Yonder Alonso slammed his helmet after striking out in the first inning. Burnett didn't let a Padre on base until the third, didn't let one score until the fourth and struck out six through the first five innings.
Burnett had not allowed a home run in eight starts, since June 8, before Jedd Gyorko hit a 1-2 fastball out to left field in the fourth. His 14th home run of the season cut the Pirates' lead to 3-1.
In the third, Burnett walked Alexi Amarista on four pitches to load the bases for Alonso. Burnett's 1-1 fastball was high, but plate umpire Doug Eddings called it a strike. When Alonso swung through a curveball to strike out with the bases loaded to end the inning, he let Eddings have it. Cedeno ushered Alonso to the dugout before he could get tossed, and Padres manager Bud Black picked up the argument.
Burnett said he maintained his usual approach against Alonso.
"I usually don't change until I need to, until they show me they're making an adjustment on me," Burnett said.
Ross (3-6) started the season in the rotation, but moved to the bullpen after three starts. He briefly went down to the minors before rejoining the rotation in July. In Ross' five starts since returning to the majors, and the rotation, July 23, he had a 1.32 ERA and struck out 36 batters in 34 innings.
Walker put the Pirates ahead in the first. He hit Ross' 3-1 fastball out to right-center field for his eighth home run. The Pirates continued to pound Ross and the Padres' bullpen, hitting balls hard and to the opposite field, something Hurdle has stressed since joining the organization.
"I think we were able to just get him in good hitting counts for most of the night and square up some baseballs," Walker said.
"I think it was a good approach all the way through the order."
Two batters later, Alvarez reached on an error. The next batter, Russell Martin, doubled to the wall in right field. The ball wedged itself at the base of the wall, allowing Alvarez to score, and the Pirates led 2-0.
One day after rounding the bases in one fell swoop after a single and a three-base error, Alvarez cranked out a triple on a line drive to the wall in left-center field in the third. The hit scored Walker, who was hit with a pitch, and the Pirates led 3-0.
Andrew McCutchen tripled off Dale Thayer with two men on in the seventh to score both runs. Lefty Colt Hynes then walked two batters to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Josh Harrison cleared the bases with a triple and the Pirates took an 8-1 lead.
"He's going to get his swing off, he's going to see something he likes, he's going to get after it," Hurdle said of Harrison.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published August 21, 2013 5:15 AM