As good as Francisco Liriano was last night for the Pirates A.J. Burnett was just as good today. Burnett coupled his usual solid strikeout numbers with unusual control and strike zone consistency and finished the game throwing all nine innings and needed just 111 pitches to do so. He threw 83 of those pitches for strikes and was just outstanding.
Burnett did give up eight hits, three to Rockies second baseman Jonathan Herrera, but in turn he struck out nine and only walked one. Through six innings he only threw 65 pitches and when you are striking guys out at a decent rate you are usually going to throw a ton of pitches and while he is typically a little wild he was at his best today. Really fun to watch when he is on like this and while the offense did plenty enough the Pirates are more than happy that Burnett once again gave them a great start.
The offense got the job done, again. Typically during Burnett starts the offense really doesn't put up the runs and while that might seem like something that always happens I don't really think it has anything to do with Burnett actually being on the mound, more of a coincidence. But, anyways, the Pirates were able to get on the board in the first on an Andrew McCutchen single that scored Starling Marte (who opened the game with a double) and then the Pirates scored again on a sacrifice fly from Garrett Jones in the third inning.
The sacrifice fly was really all on McCutchen and Neil Walker doing some incredible base running. The bases were loaded with no outs and Russell Martin hit a ground ball to to third base. DJ LeMahieu fielded the ball and touched third to make McCutchen out (who was on second), when the ball was hit Walker was running home and when the base was touched he was really hung out to dry. LeMahieu threw home and catcher Yorvit Torrealba ran Walker back to third base where McCutchen also was and standing. Torrealba obviously didn't know that LeMahieu tagged third base and he just walked Walker back to third thinking there were two runners on third. Well since McCutchen was out on the force play he really just served as a decoy for Walker to get back to third base safely rather than getting into a rundown and eventually being out. It was a heads up play by McCutchen and a heads up play by Walker to just get back to third base and take his chance. It turned out leading to a run so this was great.
Martin really put this game out of reach with a three run bomb on the first pitch from reliever Manny Corpas in the bottom of the fifth inning. The ball was crushed.
The Pirates had great plate appearances all day. They drew four walks and knocked out Rockies starter Juan Nicasio after only 4.1 innings where he threw 103 pitches. That is exactly what you need to do. A series win for the Pirates. You can't win every game but you can still win the series' that you're supposed to. That is what the Pirates did. Much deserved off day tomorrow.