July 31, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE
Pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas broke up A.J. Burnett's no-hitter with two outs in the eighth with a line-drive single to right, and Burnett had to settle for a one-hitter, capping a brilliant, eight-strikeout outing with a whiff of Alfonso Soriano.
Burnett mowed the Cubs down until the eighth, relying heavily on his curveball and on pitches in the dirt in the late innings as he tried to complete the no-hitter. He had a 1-2 count against Cardenas, but his next two pitches were called balls, and Cardenas got his hit on a 3-2 pitch. Burnett was visibly furious that he hadn't gotten a strike-three call earlier in the at-bat. The 1-2 pitch clearly missed; the 2-2 pitch was closer, and I'll have to get another look at it.
The Pirates did all the damage they needed to in the bottom of the first, off newly-recalled starter Casey Coleman, who was pitching in place of Ryan Dempster. Travis Snider hit an infield single in his first plate appearance as a Pirate, and then Andrew McCutchen hit an infield single of his own. Garrett Jones walked to load the bases. Neil Walker then hit a long fly ball to deep right; he stood and watched it from the plate, but it hung up in the wind at Wrigley Field and only landed in the first row. Still, a grand slam is a grand slam.
The Pirates got another run in the seventh when Snider walked, McCutchen doubled and Garrett Jones hit a sacrifice fly, making it 5-0, Bucs.
Snider went 1-for-4 with a walk in his first game with the Bucs. Pedro Alvarez was 2-for-3 with a walk and a double, and McCutchen went 3-for-5 with a double.
In any case, it was an outstanding outing for Burnett, who helped the Pirates get back on track and rest their bullpen after a terrible game yesterday and a series of roster-altering moves yesterday and today.
There's been a lot of, "Thanks, Yankees," going around tonight, and why not? It's the trade deadline, Burnett has been a rock for the Pirates, and the Bucs just shipped Casey McGehee to New York it a deal that almost looks like a thank-you gift. (As a couple folks in the comments of previous threads have suggested, it was probably more of a thank-you gift to McGehee than to the Yankees, but hey.) Burnett has been tremendous, and in a rotation full of pitchers who make me uneasy at times, I see no reason not to continue to have confidence in him. I'll join in the chorus: Thanks, Yankees, and thanks to Neal Huntington. Burnett has been a revelation.
The Reds sneaked by with a 7-6 win against the Padres, so the Pirates are still three games back.
UPDATE 11:28: Zach Buccos in the comments:
I probably would have cried if A.J. would have gotten that. That man has meant everything to this team, and if he would of pulled off the no-no, it would have made this narrative of the grizzled, chased-out-of-town veteran so utterly perfect it would be like a literary trope pulled from a beautiful story of perseverance.