Cardinals smack around Burnett, take 1-0 series lead
ST. LOUIS — Winning a wild-card game in their first postseason appearance in 21 years made the Pirates the darlings of baseball.
On Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals showed them who's the boss.
Right-hander A.J. Burnett lasted only two-plus innings, as the Cardinals crushed the Pirates, 9-1, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Since 2000, the Cardinals have appeared in 96 playoff games and won 63. Both numbers are tops in the National League in that span. This year, they won their ninth NL Central title and tied the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the majors.
“It is one of the historic organizations in the game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It drips with tradition, with respect, with integrity, with professionalism.”
Burnett might choose other adjectives. The Cardinals are his bogeymen, and Busch Stadium is his house of horrors. In five starts for the Pirates at Busch, Burnett has a 15.50 ERA and a 2.61 WHIP.
“We came here to get momentum, but I gave (the Cardinals) momentum,” Burnett said. “But the sun comes up tomorrow. I'll do my work and do what I can in case I do get the ball again.”
If this best-of-five series runs its course, Game 5 will be played at Busch Stadium. Hurdle would then face a tough decision. Should he start Burnett, who would have an extra day's rest? Or should he give the ball to rookie Gerrit Cole?
“We believe in our guys,” Hurdle said. “We'll continue to trust our guys. I think (Burnett) is going to have another opportunity to bounce back and give us a better shot, a much better shot than he gave us today.”
Cole will pitch Game 2 on Friday. It will be his first career outing against the Cardinals.
“I have no real experience to pull from, so I'm just going to try to keep it as simple as I can,” Cole said. “You're in enemy territory. The place is going to be loud. It's going to be rocking.”
The sellout crowd of 45,693 was subdued Thursday, but only for the first two innings.
In the third, it mockingly chanted “Aaaaa-Jaaaay,” as Burnett put eight consecutive batters on base via four hits, three walks and one hit batter.
“They were watching, paying attention and hoping something big would happen,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Things got pretty exciting for them.”
The Cardinals' seven-run outburst tied an NLDS record for a single inning.
Burnett fell behind each of the first four batters he faced. Adam Wainwright walked, and Matt Carpenter singled. Carlos Beltran caught hold of a sinker and hit a towering home run to right field.
Burnett got Beltran to ground out in the first inning by pounding away with inside sinkers.
Beltran figured Burnett would attack him the same way in the third.
“He fell behind (2-1) and threw a sinker that he was trying to throw at the front door, but it kind of ended up in the middle of the plate,” Beltran said.
Two pitches later, Matt Holliday smoked a double to center field. Matt Adams was hit by a pitch. Yadier Molina walked, loading the bases with no outs.
Jon Jay walked on six pitches, scoring Holliday. David Freese hit a two-run single, and Jay also scored on a throwing error by right fielder Marlon Byrd.
Burnett did not face another batter. It was reminiscent of his start May 2, 2012, when the Cardinals torched him for 12 runs in 22⁄3 innings at Busch Stadium.
“My sinker was cutting, and I had no hook,” Burnett said. “I was able to execute a pitch here and there, but never able to repeat my delivery. I was anxious and wasn't able to stay back on my back leg.”
Wainwright, the Cardinals starter, was dominant. The righty went seven innings, allowed one run on three hits and struck out nine.
The first time through the Pirates' lineup, Wainwright got two-strike counts on eight batters. He collected six infield grounders and three strikeouts, and threw a total of 43 pitches.
Andrew McCutchen's two-out single in the fourth inning was the Pirates' first hit of the game. They were shut out until the fifth, when Pedro Alvarez thumped a 437-foot solo homer.
“It was just a disaster of a pitch,” Wainwright said. “That's probably one of the better ones I've ever given up. He crushed it.”
Wainwright has Cy Young stuff with all his pitches, but his curveball was especially devilish. He got 11 outs, including six whiffs, with the breaking ball.
“He had his good stuff going right from the beginning,” Matheny said. “Breaking ball was sharp. Controlled the counts. He had everything really working from the top.
“When he does that, he's going to make for a long day for most people.”
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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