A.J. Burnett struck out seven batters, pitched six scoreless innings, hit an RBI single and left with a 1-0 lead, but the Pirates couldn't hold on Friday night as the Cardinals won 2-1 in 10 innings.
The Bucs had a big opportunity to blow the game open in the sixth, but they couldn't capitalize. Francisco Cervelli singled and Jordy Mercer doubled, and up came Burnett, who somehow dribbled a single up the middle to score Cervelli. The Pirates held Mercer at third, and Gregory Polanco walked to load the bases, still with no outs and with the heart of the Pirates' order coming up.
Josh Harrison was up first with an exhausting 11-pitch at bat, and whenever there's an 11-pitch at-bat, there's the temptation to praise the hitter, as I did on Twitter. A couple people promptly pointed out, though, that Lance Lynn wasn't really throwing anything in the zone. They were right (although the sheer number of pitches Harrison saw might have hastened Lynn's departure from the game). Harrison fouled off five pitches outside the strike zone and eventually popped out on another pitch out of the zone, so the 11-pitch at-bat wasn't so much great battling on his part as a refusal to take a walk with the bases loaded. In fact, the at-bat typified the problems Harrison has had this season. Anyway, then Lynn struck out Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, and the Pirates ended their half of the inning getting only that one run.
Arquimedes Caminero relieved Burnett in the seventh and promptly got into trouble, giving up a ground ball single to Jhonny Peralta and a walk to Jason Heyward. Then Mercer made a nice play to catch a soft liner by Yadier Molina, and threw to double off Peralta at second. Peralta was called out, but the ruling was correctly overturned on review -- a shame, because both the baserunner and the out were so crucial.
Antonio Bastardo entered and struck out Kolten Wong, although Peralta and Heyward moved up on a double steal, catching the Pirates napping (although some of them may have thought Bastardo's called strike three was ball four anyway). Jared Hughes then replaced Bastardo and did his job, getting a ground ball, but Mark Reynolds beat the shift for an infield single that tied the game. Then Tony Watson replaced Hughes and got the third out.
To recap, though, the Pirates burned Caminero, Bastardo and Hughes that inning, leaving only Watson, Radhames Liz, Rob Scahill and what's left of Mark Melancon. There was no way to feel good about that (although even when the Pirates had a 1-0 lead, the idea of Melancon trying to maintain it in the ninth was already pretty terrifying). Watson pitched the eighth, and Scahill pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. In the 10th, he got two outs, then put a bunch of batters on and gave up a walk-off single to Matt Adams.
Regardless, I go back to that sixth inning. The Pirates could have given themselves a comfortable lead there, and they didn't.
Oh, and an item that's way less interesting than what could have been a big win against a division rival: Burnett passed Sandy Koufax on the all-time strikeout list, with 2,397.