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Cardinals Vs. Pirates, 21 April 2012: A.J. Burnett To Start

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I pulled this together for my preview of tonight's game for SB Nation Pittsburgh: the Pirates have played 13 games so far, and they've had six or fewer hits seven times. In those games, they're 1-6. In other games, they're 4-2.

Tonight's game pits Jake Westbrook and Kevin Correia. (UPDATE: Now it's A.J. Burnett. See below.) There are a few ways to look at this:

1. Kevin Correia vs. PNC Park. Eh, not a big of this one.

2. Pirates and Cardinals vs. Mother Nature. The weather in Pittsburgh is currently pretty bleak, although it looks like it ought to clear up.

3. The Pirates' offense vs. itself. It almost feels like it doesn't matter who the starting pitcher is, for either team. The Bucs have made great pitchers look great, and they've made mediocre pitchers look great; they've lost games in which their own starting pitchers have been terrific, and in which their starters have been mediocre.

Andrew McCutchen and Casey McGehee have been good so far, Garrett Jones' stat line now looks like that of a major-league first baseman (thanks largely to his outburst on Tuesday), and Neil Walker appears to be getting it together. But Jose Tabata (despite two ground-ball hits Friday night) and the bottom of the Pirates' order continue to be horrible.

The bottom of the eighth on Friday was a microcosm of the six through eight hitters' season so far: Rod Barajas swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded out. Pedro Alvarez whiffed on three straight pitches. And then Clint Barmes did the same thing. Ugly stuff. The Pirates will have to put up with it for a while and hope it changes. Hopefully it will.

-P- In the minors, A.J. Burnett pitches for Altoona against Richmond at 6:00. Hunter Strickland and the Marauders face Fort Myers at 6:30. Nick Kingham goes for West Virginia against Charleston at 7:05. Jo-Jo Reyes and Indianapolis currently have a 2-0 lead against Jeff Francis and the Louisville Bats.

UPDATE: Actually, A.J. Burnett will start for the Pirates tonight. The Bucs will need to make a roster move to make room for him. It sounds like that move could be sending Correia to the disabled list -- he has "discomfort" in his left side, whatever that means. It's three weeks into the season, and the Pirates are already down two starting pitchers. Normally I'd be pretty excited for Burnett's Pirates debut, but Burnett's rehab starts didn't show that he was ready. His last outing, for Indianapolis, was awful.

UPDATE 4:05 p.m.: Jared Hughes has been sent down. Correia remains on the active roster. The idea of having Hughes pitch three innings in the midst of a close game last night because he might be sent down the next day seems too clever by half, and I can't believe the Pirates did that knowing Correia wouldn't be able to make his start, but who knows? Until we hear more, it's hard not to wonder if the two moves are somehow related.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m.: The Pirates shuffle some deck chairs at the bottom of the lineup.


Alex Presley LF
Jose Tabata RF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Neil Walker 2B
Casey McGehee 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Clint Barmes SS
Rod Barajas C
A.J. Burnett P


Rafael Furcal SS
Matt Carpenter 1B
Matt Holliday LF
Carlos Beltran RF
David Freese 3B
Yadier Molina C
Daniel Descalso 2B
Shane Robinson CF
Jake Westbrook P