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Burnett, Pirates burn Cubs

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- A.J. Burnett usually shines against the Chicago Cubs, and Jeff Samardzija frequently dominates the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Burnett prevailed in matchup between the two on Saturday at Wrigley Field. He carried a shutout into the ninth inning and Pedro Alvarez hit a home run to lead the Pirates to a 6-2 victory over Samardzija and the Cubs.

Burnett (4-6) continued to pitch well against the Cubs, giving up two runs and four hits and striking out five in 8 1/3 innings to pick up his first victory since May 3 at Washington. Burnett is 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA lifetime at Wrigley and 7-2 overall against the Cubs.

He didn't allow a hit until the fifth when Nate Schierholtz doubled to lead off. Burnett took the shutout into the ninth before Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer with one out that ended his day.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he liked Burnett's rhythm, and the pitcher agreed.

"I think any time you look up and you have no hits going in, they assume you have good rhythm," Burnett said. "I did all right."

Burnett credited the defense behind him, but he was also able to rely on Alvarez and the offense, which broke through against Samardzija, a pitcher who usually controls Pittsburgh.

Samardzija had been 4-1 with a 0.98 ERA in 15 games during his career against Pittsburgh but struggled this time out and took the loss.

Samardzija (3-7) pitched six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits. The eight Pirates hits matched the most given up this season by Samardzija.

"They just got me out of my rhythm it seemed like from that second inning on," Samardzija said. "It's up to me to get back into that rhythm and really find what makes me tick and like I said, a couple pitches that they took advantage of, for sure."

Alvarez had three RBI, including a two-run homer in the fourth off Samardzija to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead. Russell Martin's two-run homer in the eighth, the 100th home run of his career, meant a 6-0 lead for the Pirates, who can sweep the three-game series Sunday after taking Friday's opener 2-0.

"I just think we did a pretty good job of trying to stay within ourselves and sticking to our approach," Alvarez said. "Other than that, he competed like he always does."

The offensive breakout was good news for the Pirates, who had scored eight runs in their last four games.

"Our guys actually took very good swings today throughout the game," Hurdle said. "That's just what we were looking for."

It wasn't for the Cubs, who have lost five of six since a five-game winning streak.

Before Soriano's home run, the Cubs' lone scoring chance was in the sixth. They had runners on second and third with two outs, but Alvarez made a diving play on Soriano's grounder to get the Cubs left fielder on a throw across the diamond.

In his previous start at Wrigley on July 31, 2012, Burnett took a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth, eventually giving up his first hit with two outs in the inning.

Saturday was an unpleasant reminder of that for Chicago, which was two outs from getting shut out for the second day in a row after Francisco Liriano pitched seven scoreless innings and the Pirates held them to five hits on Friday.

"Obviously, Burnett's proved it for a long time and last year and this year. And, obviously, Lirano is one of the best right now, pure stuff-wise," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's going to be tough to put hits together and do some things on offense."

NOTES: Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, will make his debut Tuesday for the Pirates against the San Francisco Giants. Hurdle wouldn't say if it's a spot start or Cole's in the rotation to stay. ... The Cubs said reliever Kyuji Fujikawa will visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday and is expected to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Tuesday. ... Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Karstens, who hasn't pitched this season, on Friday underwent surgery on his right rotator cuff and labrum. Karstens will be shut down for 10-to-12 weeks. ... Sveum said it's "getting closer" to giving struggling shortstop Starlin Castro a day off. Castro went 0-for-3 on Saturday and is in a 3-for-34 skid. ... The Pirates placed pitcher Jared Hughes on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Friday because of right shoulder inflammation and recalled outfielder Alex Presley from Triple-A Indianapolis. ... Hurdle said pitcher Jose Contreras will throw one inning on a rehab assignment on Monday, probably for Indianapolis and Wandy Rodriguez is expected to throw a side session on Monday. Jeanmar Gomez will do the same, and could go on a rehab assignment Thursday if "that goes well." ... On Sunday, the Pirates' Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45) will face Chicago's Edwin Jackson (1-8, 6.29).
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