DETROIT — It still feels, to some extent, like folks are waiting for A.J. Burnett to fall apart. Well, 16 starts into the season, he’s far exceeded the plans the Pirates had for him this season. When I asked Neal Huntington before spring training what the Pirates are expecting from Burnett, he said this ...
"Don't expect 2013. Don't expect 2014. The thought is he'll be somewhere in between, and we're working hard to help him be closer to 2013 than 2014."
In 2013, Burnett was 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA and a career-best 3.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In 2014, Burnett was 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA and led the majors in earned runs and walks.
In 2015, Burnett is 7-3 with a 2.05 ERA and a 3.33 strikeout-to-walk, a new career-best mark.
Wednesday night, the Pirates bats came to life in a big way, like 21 hits and four home runs big, and Burnett stayed the course to go 7 innings allowing 7 hits and 2 earned runs, striking out 4 and walking none. He threw a first-pitch strike to 24 of 29 batters. That’s efficiency. That’s how to eat up innings after your bullpen just won you a 14-inning game the night before.
"It's never just another game,“ Burnett said. ”I take the mound every time as if they bullpen gets a day off. It's not going to happen all the time, but I try to program myself where I'm going out on the mound and I'm going to go deep into the game so these guys can get a day off."
The All-Star teams will be named later this week. It could be the first time in his career Burnett makes the All-Star Game. Is he anticipating the announcement?
"I'm curious,” he said. ”But it ain't gonna change the way I go about anything. I've a side in two days and then another start. That's all I'm worried about."
INDIANAPOLIS (48-32) defeated Columbus, 2-1. RHP Radhames Liz (1-1, 0.63) picked up his first win since being sent down by the Pirates as he allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits in 5 innings while walking 2 and striking out 7. Blake Wood worked the ninth and picked up his 20th save. 2B Alen Hanson (.292) was the offensive catalyst as he went 3 for 4 with a homer and scored 2 runs.
ALTOONA (43-35) defeated Trenton, 2-0. LHP Steven Brault (1-1, 2.08) allowed 1 hit over 7 shutout innings for the win. SS Max Moroff (.325) was 2 for 4, while 3B Eric Wood (.218) and RF Stetson Allie (.205) each knocked in a run.
BRADENTON (36-41) lost to Charlotte, 5-2. RHP Frank Duncan (4-4, 5.26) allowed 3 runs on 8 hits, including a pair of homers, in 7 innings. 3B Wyatt Mathisen (.285) was 2 for 3 with a double and was the only Marauders player with 2 hits.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (43-33) defeated Kannapolis, 11-4. RHP Austin Coley (10-4, 3.94) became the first pitcher in the South Atlantic League to reach double-digit wins as he surrendered 2 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings. SS Cole Tucker (.293) went 4 for 5 with a double and scored 3 runs out of the leadoff slot. DH Michael Suchy (.273) was 2 for 4 with a 3-run homer and 4 RBIs.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (5-7) lost to State College, 5-2. RHP Dario Agrazal (1-1, 2.81) gave up 2 earned runs on 6 hits in 5 innings. LF Ty Moore (.385) went 2 for 3 with a double and 1B Albert Baur was 2 for 4.
BRISTOL (3-5) Game with Elizabethton ended late.
GCL PIRATES (5-3) defeated the Tigers, 3-1. RHP Alex Martinez (1-0, 4.70) allowed 1 run on 2 hits and fanned 3 in 3 innings of relief for the win. Starter Seth McGarry pitched 4 shutout innings and did not allow a hit while striking out 3. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (.500) was 3 for 4 with a double, triple and scored 3 runs. 1B Sam Kennelly (.233) was 2 for 3 with 1 RBI.
RHP A.J. Burnett (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
Game: Pirates (43-33) at Tigers (39-37)
Time: 7:08 p.m.
Site: Comerica Park
TV, radio: ROOT Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7
Weather: 70 and partly cloudy
1. Josh Harrison 3B
2. Neil Walker 2B
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Starling Marte LF
5. Pedro Alvarez DH
6. Francisco Cervelli C
7. Gregory Polanc RF
8. Jordy Mercer SS
9. Sean Rodriguez 1B
A.J. Burnett RHP
1. Rajai Davis CF
2. Ian Kinsler 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera 1B
4. Victor Martinez DH
5. Yoenis Cespedes LF
6. J.D. Martinez RF
7. Nick Castellanos 3B
8. James McCann C
9. Jose Iglesias SS
Alfredo Simon RHP
• Starling Marte’s bunt singe last night, hit hard and right down the line, nearly got past Miguel Cabrera behind first base. "A little harder and he might have had a double," Clint Hurdle said. The Pirates think they can expose the Tigers corner infielders with bunts this series, and with Justin Verlander and his balky back on the mound, it made sense to have Marte lay one down. "Marte went in with a different angle we hadn't used before," Hurdle said with a grin. "Maybe that's something we can factor in and use a little more in the future. Beat 'em down the line."
• Pirates ended June 43-33 and are eight games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. "We've done some very good things this year,“ Hurdle said. ”We have some areas that need work and improvement. We don't turn our head on the mistakes that are made and challenges that come our way. We're working every day to find a better rhythm and path. These guys are connected at the hip. They play hard for one another. They respect one another. They back one another. They all know what's at stake."
• Another good outing Tuesday by left-hander Antonio Bastardo, who has made sevens straight scoreless appearances: "We're past gaining confidence,“ Hurdle said. ”This guy is getting things done." ... "This guy is hard to hit. There's a lot of swing and miss. There's a lot of fly ball. It's there. It's playing. His command, his strike throwing has ramped up dramatically from what we saw in April and early May. There's no doubt. He's the guy we thought we were getting in the trade."
• Corey Hart went 1 for 4 with an RBI Tuesday in his first rehab start at Class AAA Indianapolis. He even scored from first on a play. "[Manager Dean Treanor] said they almost had a conversation rounding third,“ Hurdle joked. ”Corey felt he was good at third, and Dean said wait a minute, I think we can go one more. He went ahead and waved him, and he was able to score."
DETROIT — Gerrit Cole took a few minutes Wednesday to respond to Victor Martinez’s comments that he has “no respect” for Cole and the Pirates for retaliating after Justin Verlander hit Starling Marte by drilling Martinez with a 95 mph fastball.
Was the HBP intentional?
“Yeah, everybody knows that,” Martinez said afterward. “I’ve got no respect for anyone on that team, including Cole and their coaching staff. Because if they think Verlander hit Marte with a 1-2 count — he was battling in that at-bat and Verlander ended up hitting him — if they really think we did it on purpose, they’re playing the wrong sport. Nothing else to say.”
Asked about Martinez’s comments Wednesday, manager Clint Hurdle said, "I wasn't aware he was the voice of reason," and moved on.
Below is a transcription of Cole’s media session Tuesday. The questions have been paraphrased, but the answers are verbatim. Cole was bothered by the line of questioning of some media, particularly Detroit media, who he said were trying to make a story where there wasn’t one.
Did Victor Martinez's comments get back to you?
"That's his opinion, man."
What's the process like when players want to police these HBP situations themselves?
"It's just about owning the inner half of the plate. It's just about pitching aggressively."
Did you guys believe Justin Verlander hit Starling Marte on purpose?
"I mean, I don't know. It's a 1-2 count, he hit him on the wrist or forearm. Got him pretty good. I don't know."
Did you hit Victor on purpose?
"I let one go inside."
Are you guys more sensitive than usual, given Andrew McCutchen's HBP last week?
"There's no doubt our guys are getting attacked inside. It happened the rest of the night. I don't know. We got hit three times last night."
So, when you let one go inside on Victor, what does he say to you? Are you thinking you guys are going to go right there?
"He didn't say anything. Just took his base."
When he says he has no respect for you guys, do you laugh that off?
"That's his opinion, man. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I can't control who he respects and who he doesn't."
Do you respect him?
"Yeah. How can you not? He's been in the league for like 15 years. One of the best hitters in all of baseball."
Did his comments surprise you at all?
"I mean, I didn't expect it, but surprised? I don't know. People take exception to that kind of stuff. It's not uncommon."
Will you guys say anything to each other?
"No. I don't know when I'd have the opportunity."
DH Victor Martinez (Leon Halip/Getty)
DETROIT — Victor Martinez wasn’t in a mood to mince words early Wednesday morning after he grounded into a double play to end a 14-inning marathon that the Pirates won 5-4.
Martinez, the Tigers DH, was bothered by something, or a string of somethings, that happened many hours earlier.
It began with Justin Verlander hitting Starling Marte in the elbow with a 1-2 fastball in the fourth. Tensions have been high in Pirates camp lately regarding HBPs, of course, since Andrew McCutchen got knocked out of a game last week. So, in the bottom of the inning Gerrit Cole drilled Martinez with a 95 mph fastball up and in, hitting him somewhere near his shoulder.
That’s what Martinez was still ticked about after the game.
Was Cole’s high-and-tight heater intentional?
“Yeah, everybody knows that,” Martinez told reporters. “I’ve got no respect for anyone on that team, including Cole and their coaching staff. Because if they think Verlander hit Marte with a 1-2 count — he was battling in that at-bat and Verlander ended up hitting him — if they really think we did it on purpose, they’re playing the wrong sport. Nothing else to say.”
Verlander responded by hitting the leadoff man in the fifth, Pedro Alvarez, with a 95 mph fastball that “got away from me,” he claimed. And, to his credit, Verlander had inconsistent command Tuesday and walked five batters, hitting two more. Umpire Chris Segal warned both benches, and that was the end of that, for the most part. Reliever Blaine Hardy hit Gregory Polanco in the leg in the eighth, but it wasn’t deemed intentional, so Hardy pitched on.
We’ll see how this plays out the next two days.
(HT Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.)