A.J. Burnett's stretch of great pitching continued Sunday as he led the Pirates to a much-needed win over the Reds with yet another strong performance. Burnett went 8.2 innings, striking out seven in a 6-2 victory. He allowed two walks with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, preventing him from finishing the complete game. Before that, he'd retired 18 straight batters. Joel Hanrahan pitched to one batter for the save.
In the bottom of the first, Burnett gave up a walk to Drew Stubbs, who came home on a line-drive double by Jay Bruce. In the top of the second, though, Garrett Jones led off with a single, and Neil Walker hit a breaking ball for a two-run homer, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Drew Stubbs homered (as the Reds' announcers pointed out, it was a Great American Ballpark special, one of those not-so-hard-hit balls that lands in the first couple rows) with two outs in the bottom of the third to tie the game.
He would be the last Reds baserunner until Bruce walked with two outs in the ninth.
In the top of the fourth, Gaby Sanchez and Clint Barmes singled, and both came home on the first triple of Starling Marte's career.
That's the way it stayed for several innings. In the top of the eighth, the Pirates probably should have gotten at least another run. Marte got hit by a pitch (a breaking ball that grazed him, not a malicious one) and took off when the Reds botched a pickoff attempt. Brian Gorman (there he is again!) called Marte out at third, but replays showed that he was clearly safe.
In the top of the ninth, when Andrew McCutchen hit a welcome homer, his first since July 17, to provide an insurance run. Then Walker and Sanchez hit weak singles, and Todd Frazier Bill Bucknered Rod Barajas' ground ball, and the Pirates got one more.
The Pirates now stand 4.5 games back of the Reds in the N.L. Central, and they've got A.J. Burnett to thank for that. The Bucs have won Burnett's last four starts, and Burnett has pitched at least 7.1 innings in all of them, as the rest of the rotation has seemed to be hanging by a thread.