Pirates' Burnett fires 1-hitter in beating Cubs
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 11:04 p.m.
CHICAGO — On trade deadline day, right-hander A.J. Burnett once again showed the best deal the Pirates made this year happened back in spring training.
Burnett fired a one-hitter and racked up eight strikeouts Tuesday to guide the Pirates past the Chicago Cubs, 5-0.
“I got caught up in it,” Burnett admitted. “I wanted to throw (a no-hitter). I started thinking about it in the third or fourth inning.”
Pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas ended Burnett's bid for what would've been his second career no-hitter with a two-out single in the eighth inning. The Cubs have gone a major league-record 7,441 games without being no-hit.
Neil Walker hit a grand slam and tied his career high with five RBI.
Burnett (13-3) won his third straight start and lowered his ERA to 3.29. He improved to 6-0 with a 2.78 ERA in seven career starts against the Cubs.
“That was one of the best games I've seen pitched — ever,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Burnett gave a large share of credit to catcher Rod Barajas. The two know each other well, having played together with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.
“This game is up there with the best,” Barajas said. “I've caught games when he's struck out 13, 14 guys. But it's a different kind of A.J. Burnett than who we had in Toronto. He doesn't miss as much anymore. He's really learned how to pitch.”
Burnett is known for delivering shaving-cream pies to the faces of teammates after impressive feats. However, no one reciprocated to Burnett after the near no-no.
“I think the 25-plus hugs I got were enough,” Burnett said, smiling.
The Pirates acquired Burnett in February from the New York Yankees in exchange for two minor leaguers. He missed the first three weeks of the regular season recovering from surgery to repair a shattered orbital bone.
Burnett tossed a no-hitter May 12, 2001, when he was with the Florida Marlins. It was his second start that season after returning from a broken foot.
Burnett retired the first 11 batters he faced Tuesday, then walked Anthony Rizzo. Burnett set down the next six batters, then walked David DeJesus in the sixth.
With one out in the eighth, Darwin Barney was hit on the helmet by a curveball. Barney was replaced by pinch-runner Jeff Baker.
Burnett tried to stay loose during the delay and knelt down to tie his shoelaces. He threw a couple of pitches in the dirt to Luis Valbuena, but still got a strikeout.
“That (delay) didn't bother me,” Burnett said.
Cardenas worked a full count, then lined a single to right field. After the hit, Burnett got a standing ovation from the crowd of 33,158, which included a large number of Pirates fans.
The Cubs started right-hander Casey Coleman (0-2) in place of Ryan Dempster, who was traded to the Texas Rangers three hours before the game.
Right fielder Travis Snider, whom the Pirates acquired late Monday night from the Toronto Blue Jays, hit an infield single in the first inning. Andrew McCutchen singled and Jones walked, loading the bases with one out.
Walker drove a 2-1 pitch into the right field bleachers for his second career grand slam.
“The wind was blowing in pretty good, so I figured I'd get a sacrifice fly,” Walker said. “Fortunately, it made it over the ivy.”
Walker hit his first slam at Wrigley Field on Opening Day last year.
Lousy baserunning cost the Pirates some runs in the third. McCutchen and Jones singled, putting runners on the corners with none out. Walker grounded to first base, and McCutchen, who broke on contact, was an easy out at home plate.
Pedro Alvarez hit a flyball single into the ivy in center field. However, Jones stopped at third and Alvarez sprinted to second, so Walker got hung up between bases.
Rod Barajas walked, loading the bases. But Clint Barmes popped up, snuffing the threat.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7811.
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