'Reborn' Burnett ends to slide; Pirates beat Houston, 8-1

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HOUSTON -- A.J. Burnett put an end to two ugly streaks Sunday with a dominant performance on the mound.

Leading the way to an 8-1 victory against the Houston Astros, Burnett helped the Pirates snap a five-game losing streak and became the first Pirates pitcher in 21 years to win more than 15 games in a season.

Burnett allowed one earned run on four hits in eight innings to improve his record this season to 16-8, striking out 11 and walking one. Zane Smith (16-10) and John Smiley (20-8) were the previous Pirates pitchers to win at least 16 games in a season when they did it in 1991.

"We need to get more people there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

For Burnett, the 16 wins are the most he has had in a season since he won a career-high 18 in 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

"To see him get back to where he was, the dominant pitcher having success, I like seeing him the way he is," catcher Rod Barajas said. "He's definitely enjoying baseball."

Burnett said he feels like he has been "reborn" since joining the Pirates in a trade in the spring. But he deflected credit for his win total.

"I guess I've got a good catcher and a good defense and some good hitters," he said. "It's a team effort. Any time I'm out there getting a W, we're getting a W."

It was Burnett's first win since Aug. 16, pitching well in that span but lacking run support. He got it Sunday, one of the few instances in an ugly stretch for the Pirates where pitching and offense played well on the same day. Burnett even got into the action on offense, driving in his second run of the season with an eighth-inning single.

Today's game
  • Game: Pirates vs. Mets, 7:10 p.m., Citi Field.
  • TV, radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).
  • Probables: RHP Kyle McPherson (0-1, 2.25) vs. RHP Jenrry Mejia (0-1, 9.00).
  • Key matchup: Mejia vs. Gaby Sanchez, who is 2 for 5 against Mejia, a former National League East rival, with two doubles.
  • Hidden stat: The Pirates enter their final road series of the season with a 33-44 record away from PNC Park this season.

But he did his worst damage on the mound with a sharp breaking ball and a pinpoint fastball. His curveball Sunday, Hurdle said, might have been Burnett's best of the season.

Burnett said it had a lot of bite at Minute Maid Park.

"You can tell these guys that it's coming, and it's still going to be tough to hit," Barajas said.

The Pirates tallied 18 hits, the most they've had in a game since also getting 18 July 2. Their season high is 19, set June 29 against St. Louis.

With the win, the Pirates (75-77) avoided a sweep against the Astros (50-103), who have had a stranglehold on the worst record in baseball for most of the second half of the season.

Josh Harrison made his first start since Sept. 12, inserted Sunday because Hurdle hoped he could spark the offense. He responded by going 4 for 6 with two runs and making a strong defensive play in the third inning to keep the game scoreless.

With Jose Altuve on second, Scott Moore hit a ground-ball single that bounced off the heel of Harrison's glove at second base and trickled into shallow center field. Harrison sprinted to the ball, slid to stop his momentum and fired home. The ball beat Altuve by a couple of steps, and Barajas tagged him out to end the inning.

"As I was turning to throw, I thought I had a good chance," Harrison said.

Jordan Lyles was the loser, his third loss of the season against the Pirates. The Astros lost all four starts he made against the Pirates.

Lyles allowed three earned runs on six hits in four innings, walking one and striking out four.

The Pirates scored four runs in the fifth, driving in all of their runs without a hard-hit ball. Alex Presley and Josh Harrison started the inning with back-to-back singles, and Andrew McCutchen drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. McCutchen was the final batter Lyles faced.

Reliever Wesley Wright hit Gaby Sanchez on the foot, scoring Presley and giving the Pirates the first run of the game.

Two batters later, Jose Tabata drew a four-pitch walk from Mickey Story, scoring Harrison. Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas each followed with bloop singles that barely cleared shortstop Tyler Greene's head in shallow left field, each plating a run as the Pirates climbed ahead, 4-0.


Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter@msanserino. First Published September 24, 2012 4:00 AM


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