Burnett and McCutchen lead Pirates over Royals
The Pittsburgh Pirates are slowly closing in on claiming first place in the N.L. Central. With another victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon, the Pirates swept the Royals and closed in on the Cincinnati Reds for the division lead. A.J. Burnett pitched another magnificent game and shut down the Royals through seven innings, enough to give the Pirates a 3-2 victory.
“It was a very, very solid performance all across the board for A.J. today,” said manager Clint Hurdle of his starter. “He’s got a lot of confidence on the mound and a lot of experience to draw from. I think he’s in a good place as far as his comfort zone.”
Burnett threw seven and one-third innings and even carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, notching six strikeouts and only walking two batters. Burnett’s run support all came off of one person’s bat: Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen knocked in all three runs on the afternoon, including blasting a two run homer in the third inning to put the Pirates ahead for good.
The Bucs got on the board early in the bottom half of the first. Alex Presley led off the game with a single into right field and moved to second on a groundout by Neil Walker. McCutchen ripped a double into right center to bring in Presley and putting the Pirates up 1-0.
McCutchen added two more runs for the Pirates in the bottom of the third with a two run homer to left field. McCutchen hit a 1-2 pitch by Bruce Chen over the fence and into the bleachers to bring in Walker and put the Pirates up 3-0.
The Royals finally got on the board in the top of the seventh inning. Bryan Pena doubled to right field, and Alicedes Escobar followed that up with a double of his own into the left field corner to bring home Pena, cutting the score to 3-1.
The Royals closed the gap to just one run in the top of the eighth. With Alex Gordon on third and Johnny Giavotella on first, Eric Hosmer hit a ground ball to short to score Gordon on a fielder’s choice to second base.
With the score at 3-2 going into the ninth, the Pirates turned to another reliever other than Joel Hanrahan to close out the game. Jason Grilli came in and despite allowing the tying and go-ahead runs on base, he got the job done. Grilli struck out the final two batters to end the ballgame and put the Buccos five games over the .500 mark.
“It was big for us all around today,” said Grilli. “I just stayed aggressive and made pitches.”
With a sweep of the Royals, the Pirates are 12-3 in their last 15 games, a mark good enough for best in the league during that time-span.
“This weekend was outstanding,” said A.J. Burnett. “These are the things that happen when you win.”
The Pirates head to Baltimore to face the Orioles for another inter-league matchup. Their next game is on Tuesday with Brad Lincoln (3-1, 2.40 ERA) getting the start against Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 3.49 ERA) with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.