Pirates hang on to split road series with Phillies
By Karen Price
Published: Thursday, June 28, 2012, 4:36 p.m.
Updated: Friday, June 29, 2012
PHILADELPHIA — The Pirates clung to an early lead and fended off the Phillies late to leave Citizens Bank Park with a series split after losing the first two games.
A.J. Burnett won his eighth straight start in the Pirates' 5-4 victory Thursday. He's just the third pitcher this year to go 5-0 in a month, joining Washington's Gio Gonzalez and the Phillies' Cole Hamels.
The Pirates scored all of their runs in the first inning, including a three-run homer by Casey McGehee. Pedro Alvarez followed with a homer of his own, making it the third time this year the Pirates hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning. Garrett Jones was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
“The first three games, letting them score first and having to play catch-up, it was nice to get out to a lead and give A.J. some breathing room,” McGehee said. “It would have been nice to stretch it out for him, but the pitching staff all year's been pretty solid when we've given them a lead.”
The Phillies made it interesting late, just as they did the night before in the Pirates' 11-7 victory. Jason Grilli gave up a leadoff homer to Hunter Pence in the eighth, then hit Placido Polanco to put the tying run on base. Mike Fontenot singled with one out, but Grilli struck out pinch hitter Jim Thome, and Carlos Ruiz, also pinch-hitting, popped out to McGehee in foul territory.
In the ninth, Joel Hanrahan gave up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and stole third. But he got no farther, and Hanrahan earned his 20th save when Pence flied out.
“A lot of drama there late,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I loved the way the pitchers finished, and (catcher Michael) McKenry did a fantastic job behind the plate. It was his first time with A.J., and I thought they meshed well.”
Burnett (9-2) went 62⁄3 innings, allowing three runs and six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. He's the first Pirate to win eight straight starts since Dock Ellis in 1974.
“The fact that he's run off eight in a row, that's significant, but there's a lot more that goes to that,” Hurdle said. “You look at the finish the bullpen's done when he's pitched, the job on offense, and sometimes he's done it by himself. So it's a combined effort, and he's loving every minute of it.”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7980.
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