Published November 20, 2014
It came later than expected, but the Pirates saw the A.J. Burnett they had hoped they acquired when the right-hander finally made his season debut last weekend.
Burnett faces a tough task this evening as Pittsburgh tries to slow down Atlanta in the opener of a four-game series at Turner Field.
Though Burnett has posted multiple wins in seven straight seasons, he's logged earned run averages of 5.26 and 5.15 in his previous two campaigns with the Yankees, leading to New York dealing the well-paid 35-year-old to the Pirates on Feb. 19 along with cash for a pair of minor league players.
Burnett was set to be Pittsburgh's Opening Day starter, but he suffered a fractured right orbital bone during a bunting drill in spring training that required surgery. It was a tough break for the veteran and a Pittsburgh rotation hoping to add an experienced presence.
Burnett finally made his Pirates debut on Saturday versus the Cardinals and was excellent, throwing seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball, walking two while striking out seven.
"That's absolutely what we were looking for out of A.J. That's the reason he's here," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The 6-foot-4 hurler will face the Braves today for the first time since June 29, 2008 while with Toronto, a 1-0 victory in which he tossed seven scoreless frames, and is 5-9 with a 3.74 ERA against them lifetime.
The Pirates enjoyed an off day on Thursday after splitting a doubleheader with the Rockies the previous day. Pittsburgh was handed a 2-1 loss in the opener despite starter James McDonald taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning, then bounced back to win the second game 5-1 thanks to Charlie Morton's seven innings of one-run ball.
Garrett Jones had three hits, one a two-run homer, while Pedro Alvarez smacked a solo homer to give the Pirates a victory in the rubber match.
Alvarez continues to rebound from his 1-for-24 start to the season as he has gone 6-for-21 with three homers and five RBI over his past six games.
"It's just a matter of going out there and competing and just trying to keep it as simple as possible," Alvarez said of his recent success.
Pittsburgh also set a new major league record in the twin bill as they have opened the season with 18 straight games in which it hasn't scored nor allowed more than five runs in a game. That broke the 1943 Detroit Tigers' streak of 17 consecutive games.
The Pirates may struggle to snap that streak on their end tonight against Tommy Hanson, who is 2-2 with a 3.38 earned run average through four starts with Atlanta this season.
Hanson has alternated wins and losses through his four outings and is coming off a win over the Diamondbacks on Saturday. He allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings, striking out seven in a 3-2 win. The right-hander has fanned 15 in his two wins.
Hanson, 25, is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two career outings against the Pirates.
Atlanta has won seven of its past nine, including the last two of its three- game series with Los Angeles. The Braves were in danger of dropping Wednesday's finale, but Chipper Jones highlighted a three-run ninth frame with a run-scoring single.
Dan Uggla had two hits, two RBI and a run scored while Freddie Freeman added two hits and two runs scored for the Braves.
Brandon Beachy went 6 1/3 innings and gave up just two runs on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Jonny Venters got the win for striking out the side in the eighth.
"What a game that was," said Atlanta catcher Brian McCann. "Our bullpen was fantastic again tonight and we can't say enough good things about them. We got some big at-bats in the ninth inning and it was enough for tonight."
The Braves have won 10 of their last 15 against the Pirates, including five of seven in Atlanta.