Pirates beat Tigers, 4-1; Burnett at center of recent wins
Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers against Detroit last night at PNC Park.
The Pirates' A.J. Burnett puts down a bunt against Detroit at PNC Park last night.
The Pirates' Neil Walker checks off Detroit's Quintin Berry in the top half of a double play last night at PNC Park.
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With his performance Friday night, A.J. Burnett further ingrained himself in the Pirates' success in the past week.
Burnett stopped the Pirates' four-game losing streak by shutting down the Cleveland Indians last Saturday. Friday night, he shut down the Detroit Tigers and helped the Pirates win for the fifth time in six games.
Behind Burnett, the Pirates defeated the Tigers, 4-1, at PNC Park, moving their record to 37-32.
Burnett (8-2) pitched six scoreless innings and allowed two hits, walking three and striking out four. He now has four starts without allowing an earned run this season and lowered his ERA to 3.24.
He became the first Pirate to win seven consecutive starts since Dock Ellis won eight in a row in 1974.
Burnett said he operated using mostly his two-seam and four-seam fastballs because he never got a good handle on his curve.
"Usually we keep throwing it and try to find it, but we never found it tonight," he said.
"I think that threw them off. I think they were looking for curveballs in a lot of situations and we just stayed hard with them."
He and Rod Barajas put that strategy to the test in the sixth. He allowed a single and a walk to Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry to start the inning, but an eight-pitch at-bat against Miguel Cabrera helped him get out of it.
Burnett had struck out Cabrera in the fourth on a four-seam fastball.
He threw him a two-seamer in the sixth, and Cabrera grounded into a double play. Burnett got Prince Fielder to pop out and end the inning.
"He really didn't know which way it was going, I think," Burnett said of Cabrera, a former teammate of Burnett's while both were with the Florida Marlins. "I had him leaning out over [the plate] and was able to get one in on him."
After a 21-pitch sixth inning, manager Clint Hurdle lifted Burnett for Jared Hughes in the seventh. Hughes allowed back-to-back doubles to Jhonny Peralta and Ramon Santiago to make it 4-1.
Hughes threw a wild pitch that allowed Santiago to advance to third, then walked pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch before Tony Watson replaced him. Watson struck out Jackson to end the inning.
Jason Grilli pitched a perfect eighth inning and Joel Hanrahan earned his 18th save.
Burnett did not allow a hit until there were two outs in the fourth, when Delmon Young singled to center. Hitters counts elevated his pitch count, but he never found himself in trouble until the sixth.
"You saw him get ahead in counts quick, and then run them back to three balls," Hurdle said.
"Made pitches when he had to, no bigger pitch than the 94th one of the night, the ground-ball double play off the bat of one of the best hitters in baseball."
Tigers starter Doug Fister (1-4), making his second start since returning from the disabled list, allowed plenty of hits early. He allowed four runs, two earned, on eight hits in six innings.
The Pirates jumped Fister in the first inning. Alex Presley ripped a leadoff double to right field and scored on Neil Walker's single. Andrew McCutchen's single pushed Walker to third, and Garrett Jones' ground ball scored Walker to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
McCutchen went 3 for 4.
Fister allowed the first two batters to hit safely in the second inning. After Pedro Alvarez and Rod Barajas singled, Fister struck out Clint Barmes. Burnett bunted, and Fister's throw to third sailed wide, allowing Alvarez to score. Young couldn't come up with the ball near the wall in foul territory, and by the time he did, Barajas had motored around from first to score and put the Pirates up 4-0.
"You want to score runs early," Barajas said. "It turned out that was the last run we scored in the game. I was able to kind of get a read, I saw Delmon [Young] drop the ball, I said, all right, let me take a chance here."
"Anytime you get some early runs like that, it makes you go out and throw a little harder," Burnett said.
• Game: Tigers at Pirates, 4:05 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, Radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).
• Notebook, Page D-3.
First Published June 23, 2012 2:44 am