A.J. Burnett paused on the mound when he took the field for the bottom of the first Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. He came from the visiting dugout in his Philadelphia Phillies gray and red, yet there he was on the scoreboard in Pirates black as part of a tribute video. Even his old Pirates entrance music, Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People," made one final cameo.
Burnett tipped his hat to both sides of PNC Park, then toward the Pirates dugout, and proceeded to warm up.
Burnett pitched well, but his good friend Jeff Locke spoiled his return by pitching the Pirates to a 6-2 victory. The Pirates earned their first series sweep this season after missing out on the first eight opportunities and won for the 12th time in 15 games to improve to 47-41.
"It feels good, especially a team like those guys over there, especially when [Marlon] Byrd and A.J. come back again, when we happen to pack the place all three days, play three great games of baseball," Locke said.
Locke (2-1) pitched eight innings and allowed two runs, one earned. He gave up three hits and induced 15 ground-ball outs. He and Burnett saw each other near the bullpen before they began warming up. Their exchange was brief: Have fun today, go get 'em, pound down.
"It was a lot of fun," Locke said. "It didn't even feel like we were playing a Major League Baseball game."
The one walk Locke issued was to Burnett to start the third, a plate appearance Locke is sure to hear about in the future. "We've got to let him feel it in[side]," Locke joked. "If that's the only walk of the day, we'll take it."
In six starts since permanently joining the rotation, Locke has a 2.23 ERA and 25 strikeouts compared to six walks in 441/3 innings. He has pitched seven or more innings in five of those starts.
Burnett (5-8) pitched seven innings and allowed three runs, striking out seven.
A Pedro Alvarez throwing error with two outs in the first allowed Jimmy Rollins to reach second base. Byrd's single scored a run. Josh Harrison later took over at third base as a defensive replacement for Alvarez, who has made several throwing errors this season.
Russell Martin drove in two runs with a double in the first. Andrew McCutchen singled with two outs to extend the inning. He ran on a pitch to Neil Walker, who singled, and Walker later stole second. Martin worked the count full before hitting a ball off the base of the wall in right field.
"I know his two-strike commitment has been as stubborn as anybody's on the club and I do think it's been contagious with the guys seeing it," Hurdle said.
Harrison tripled and scored on a shallow fly ball in the third.
Byrd pulled the Phillies within a run with a solo homer off Locke in the seventh.
The Pirates widened the gap in the eighth. Harrison reached second on a two-base error by Cody Asche. McCutchen tripled to the wall in right-center field, scoring Harrison.
A crew chief review "overturned" the call, invoking fan interference after replays showed the ball hit the outstretched hand of a fan reaching over the wall, but nothing changed as a result.
Left-hander Jake Diekman entered to turn around switch-hitter Walker, and Walker struck out. Diekman intentionally walked Martin to set up the double play for Ike Davis, but Gaby Sanchez pinch-hit for Davis. Diekman hit Sanchez with a pitch to load the bases. A Starling Marte single and a Jordy Mercer sacrifice fly scored two more runs.
The Pirates head on a seven-game road trip against the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds in their final week of play before the All-Star break.
"We know it's going to be a dogfight there, and in Cincinnati," McCutchen said.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 6, 2014 12:00 AM