The Cardinals' Jon Jay slides safely past the reach of Pirates catcher Russell Martin during the National League Division Series game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ST. LOUIS -- Asked Wednesday about dealing with the St. Louis Cardinals lineup and their ability to hit with men on base, A.J. Burnett responded, "Try to keep them off the bags as best I can."
Thursday, Burnett gave the Cardinals, a team that needs no help, too many free baserunners and paid the price.
Burnett walked four batters and hit another in the Pirates' 9-1 loss against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Four of those freebies came in the third inning, a seven-run affair that forced Burnett from the game.
Pirates Report: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
PG beat writers Bill Brink and Michael Sanserino recap the Pirates' loss to St. Louis in the first game of their NLDS series. (Video by Peter Diana; 10/3/2013)
Burnett reacts to Pirates' loss
The Pirates' A.J. Burnett discusses his team's loss to the Cardinals in the first game of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium Thursday. (Video by Matt Freed; 10/3/2013)
"It's tough," Burnett said. "You obviously want to come out and put your foot down. That wasn't the case today. But the sun comes up tomorrow, and I do my work and do what I can in case I do get that ball again."
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series and will send Lance Lynn to the mound in Game 2 this afternoon opposite Pirates starter Gerrit Cole.
"We can't try to put any more emphasis on any game," said Pedro Alvarez, whose solo home run represented all the Pirates offense. "We just got to go out there and try to treat it as normal as possible."
Burnett had poor control. He threw only 38 of his 72 pitches for strikes. In the decisive third, he threw 37 pitches and allowed seven runs without recording an out. He also walked three and hit another. Two hits went for extra bases, including Carlos Beltran's three-run homer.
"The curveball was not even in effect today," Burnett said. "When I don't have that, they can just sit on one pitch."
Burnett said he was anxious, leading to him rushing his delivery rather than staying back and in rhythm over his right leg. As a result, he had no feel for his curveball or his sinker, which usually moves down and away to left-handed batters. Thursday, it moved in the other direction.
"Except for the one Beltran hit a mile," Burnett said. "That one stayed straight."
After allowing seven runs and six hits in two-plus innings Thursday, Burnett has a 15.50 ERA in five starts as a Pirate at Busch Stadium. Furthermore, he has yielded 37 hits over 18 innings in those games.
"It's the game, I guess," Burnett said. "The only thing I can say is that I prepared and do what I can every day and give it all I can. It just wasn't enough."
The Pirates infield defense kept the game scoreless in the second. Consecutive singles from Yadier Molina and Jon Jay put men on first and second with no outs.
David Freese hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Neil Walker fielded the ball, spun and threw to second to keep the double play in effect. Daniel Descalso grounded to short, where Clint Barmes stepped on second and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
Falling behind batters in the third led to Burnett's undoing. He walked the pitcher, Adam Wainwright, to lead off the inning and fell behind Matt Carpenter, who singled. He also fell behind Beltran before allowing a homer to right.
It was Beltran's 15th postseason homer, tying Babe Ruth for eighth on the all-time list.
"When I was on second base, I almost got just caught up in the moment," Wainwright said. "I threw my hands up in the air as soon as he hit it. I knew it was gone. Then, I just watched it for a minute because I knew it was very gone, and then I realized I had to run."
Matt Holliday doubled. Burnett hit Matt Adams, walked Molina and Jay, forcing in a run. Still, he remained in the game.
"We felt we were going to give him that last hitter, Freese," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Get the ground-ball double play, see if we could get some balance and keep the game right there where it was."
Burnett, however, allowed an RBI single to Freese that cleared the bases when Marlon Byrd's relay throw deflected off Freese near third. Then, Hurdle took Burnett out.
Wainwright worked through 32/3 innings without allowing a hit until Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau delivered consecutive singles. He held the Pirates scoreless until the fifth, when Alvarez clobbered a first-pitch changeup to right for a solo home run.
Over seven innings, Wainwright allowed one run and three hits, struck out nine and walked none.
"He pitched well," Alvarez said. "He competed. He mixed pitches well. He was sharp today."
The Cardinals added two unearned runs off Jeanmar Gomez that resulted from two of the Pirates three errors. Gomez turned in four solid innings of work in relief, but those unearned runs widened the Cardinals' margin to eight.
"Not every game is going to be close," McCutchen said. "[Stinks] that it had to be Game 1 of the playoffs. Better it's Game 1 than Game 5 or something like that."