I could sit here and talk to you about the Neil Walker home run and the Walker sacrifice fly and the nice games from Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen but this game starts and ends with one player and that is A.J. Burnett.
This was the best game that Burnett has thrown as a Pirate and to be honest that says a lot because he has been nothing short of outstanding this year. Today Burnett flirted with his second career no hitter until it was broke out with two outs in the eighth inning. While it sucked to see the no hitter broken up it doesn't take away from how good Burnett was. Even on the one hit by Adrian Cardenas it was a good pitch on the bottom of the zone. It happens. Burnett did get the complete game victory on 108 pitches and had some unreal nasty movement on his two seam fastball and his sinker and curveball were working as good as ever.
A lot can be said about what he means to this team but the Yankees and their fans have to be just stumped right now. Burnett is on pace for a 20 win season after getting number 13 tonight and while pitchers wins is an unbelievably overrated stat any time you can come close to getting 20 you have had a pretty good year. Before the season we all heard about how Burnett was a clubhouse cancer and about how he gave up two home runs but I would be shocked if you found someone who truly has a problem with the guy.
The rest of this game was mostly good. Walker drove home all five runs which started with a grand slam in the first inning and then a sac fly down the left field line in the seventh inning.
Jones was especially good tonight and while he only went 1-for-3 at the plate he drew a pair of walks which you should know as a Pirates fan is not small task for Jones who now has 4.2% walk rate. Pedro Alvarez also had a really nice game with a pair of hits and a walk. Alvarez seems to have found that nice middle ground and while he is still striking out over 30% of his plate appearances but that is something you will just have to deal with. He struck the ball well tonight and has been having much better at bats recently.
This Mr. McCutchen guy is pretty good at baseball. He has still been hitting at a .350+ pace during his "slump" but tonight he looked a lot better and it showed with a three hit night. This guy is carrying the ball club and it is fun to watch when a pitcher tries to throw something on the outer half and all he does is rope a double into the right centerfield gap.
It wasn't all good tonight. On numerous occasions tonight the Pirates had a runner on third with less than two outs and they were unable to score. I know it happens occasionally but you have to be able to put the ball in the air and score that run from third. Along with not being able drive home some easy runs the Pirates were pretty awful running the bases tonight. In particular it was Jones, Walker and Alvarez who turned what should have been a run scoring double from Alvarez into Walker getting thrown out between second and third. Just terrible. I don't even want to think about it anymore.
The Pirates look for the series win tomorrow. The loss on the first game of the series sucks but all that matters is winning a series. Get it.