Pirates hitters get early wake-up call in 5-4 win vs. Phillies

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PHILADELPHIA -- Batter after batter reached base in the first inning for the Pirates, and five scored. Those were the only runs they got, but that was all they needed.

The Philadelphia Phillies closed the gap in the late innings, but fell short. The Pirates' 5-4 win Thursday at Citizens Bank Park gave them a four-game series split with the Phillies and sent them to St. Louis with a 40-35 record.

"The first inning, we were attacking the ball," said Garrett Jones, who went 2 for 4 with a double and drove home a run in the first. "He was throwing strikes, and we were barreling the balls up."

The damage against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was minor at first, but it soon reached the critical stage.

  • Game: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium.
  • TV, radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7.
  • Probable pitchers: RHP Kevin Correia (3-6, 4.03) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (6-7, 4.32).
  • Key matchup: Correia vs. Matt Holliday, who is 8 for 29 with three doubles, a triple and a homer against him.
  • Hidden stat: Correia has walked only one batter in each of his past four starts.

Drew Sutton opened with an infield single and Neil Walker walked. After Kendrick retired Andrew McCutchen, Jones' single scored Sutton.

Kendrick left a 1-2 pitch over the plate to Casey McGehee, who drove it to left-center field for his fifth home run and Pedro Alvarez followed by pulling a changeup to right for his 14th home run. All of a sudden, the Pirates led, 5-0, and had homered in six consecutive games.

"He's had a big month," manager Clint Hurdle said of McGehee. "It was good to see."

McGehee entered June hitting .190 and without a home run, but he has hit .292 with four homers in his past 23 games to raise his average to .234.

"The calendar month turned over, he's definitely one of the guys that's really provided us with some offense," Hurdle said.

After that rocky start, Kendrick (2-8) allowed a single in the second, then did not allow another hit until the seventh. At one point, he retired 11 batters in a row. He pitched seven innings and allowed five runs and six hits, walking three and striking out six.

"He made an adjustment, throwing more cutters, going to his cutter and changeup the rest of the game," Jones said.

A.J. Burnett (9-2) pitched 62/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. He forced the Phillies to ground out 11 times, compared to one flyball out. He has excelled in that area this season: Entering Thursday, Burnett's 56.8 percent ground-ball rate ranked fifth among qualified pitchers in the major leagues.

"I just wanted to stay hard with them early and mix my soft in later on," Burnett said.

Burnett had not pitched to catcher Michael McKenry since May 2 -- when Burnett allowed 12 runs in 22/3 innings against St. Louis, a game in which his regular batterymate, Rod Barajas, was ejected. Barajas missed most of the series against Philadelphia because of a bone bruise in his left knee.

"I was really impressed today with McKenry," Burnett said. "He did a great job. I maybe shook him once or twice all game. He was outstanding today. I can't say enough about him. It was a pleasure to work with him."

Burnett won his eighth consecutive game, marking the longest winning streak for a Pirates pitcher since Dock Ellis' streak of eight in a row in 1974.

He struggled briefly in the second when Erik Kratz hit Burnett's 0-2 fastball over the high wall in center for a two-run homer that cut the Pirates' lead to 5-2. The Phillies also scored a run in the sixth, but Burnett stranded two runners with an inning-ending groundout.

He struck out the first two batters in the seventh, but left after issuing a two-out walk to Jimmy Rollins. Juan Cruz walked a batter, but got Shane Victorino to fly out and end the inning.

Hunter Pence lined a homer to left off Jason Grilli in the eighth, cutting the Pirates' lead to 5-4. Grilli hit Placido Polanco with the next pitch and later allowed an infield single to Mike Fontenot. That brought pinch-hitters Jim Thome and Carlos Ruiz to the plate with two men on.

Thome hammered a long drive just outside the foul pole in right, but eventually struck out. Ruiz, the National League batting leader entering the game, had owned Pirates pitchers this series, but he fouled out to McGehee, who made the catch while leaning over the railing along the right-field line.

"A big-time shutdown from A.J., and then everybody that followed, pitching in some challenging situations," Hurdle said. "A lot of drama out there late."

Thanks to the show they put on early, it didn't matter.


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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