The Pittsburgh Pirates' A.J. Burnett was at his best against the St. Louis Cardinals last week, but his most recent outing at Busch Stadium was definitely one to forget.
The veteran right-hander seeks a better performance in St. Louis on Saturday as he faces the only team he's beaten this season, looking to prevent the Cardinals from matching their longest win streak of the past year.
Burnett (1-2, 2.79 ERA) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against St. Louis on April 17 before giving up a two-out double to Carlos Beltran. He retired the next batter and did not return for the eighth in the 5-0 victory, recording what remains his longest outing of the season.
"My goal every time out is to throw a no-hitter. I know they are major league hitters that I'm facing and I respect them, but my job is not to give up hits. You should go to the mound with that mindset," said Burnett, who threw his only no-hitter in 2001.
Burnett did not get a decision in his ensuing start at Philadelphia on Monday, yielding two runs over five innings in a 3-2 loss. He had seven strikeouts and leads the NL with 42.
"He threw everything but the kitchen sink at them," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's website. "It's a sign of a pretty good pitcher when he doesn't have his best stuff and he doesn't do that well, and he leaves the game and it's 2-2 in the fifth."
Burnett was far from good in his latest start at Busch Stadium, giving up a career-high 12 runs and 12 hits over 2 2-3 innings in a 12-3 loss May 2. Beltran had two three-run homers and an RBI single in that matchup against Burnett, who was 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first three starts in St. Louis.
Beltran is coming off another two-homer game, hitting one from both sides of the plate in a 9-1 rout in Friday's series opener. St. Louis is 26-7 when Beltran homers since the start of last season, including 4-1 this year.
"Every time you hit a homer and you do something positive to help the team win, it feels great," Beltran said. "Today I was able to do that twice."
His performance Friday helped end the Pirates' win streak at three and extend the Cardinals' run to four. The only longer winning streak St. Louis (14-8) has had over the last year was a five-game run June 22-26.
Allen Craig matched a season high with three RBIs, and he's batting .421 with 12 RBIs in a 10-game home hitting streak against the Pirates (13-10). Craig also was hit in the helmet by a Jonathan Sanchez pitch in first inning Friday, leading to the Pittsburgh starter and Hurdle getting ejected.
Jake Westbrook (1-1, 1.25) will try again for his 100th career victory.
After pitching a five-hit shutout in Cincinnati on April 10, the right-hander was skipped in the rotation when his scheduled start against Pittsburgh on April 16 was rained out. Working on plenty of rest, Westbrook gave up three runs over six-plus innings Sunday in Philadelphia and did not get a decision as the Cardinals lost 7-3.
He hasn't been nearly as effective in nine career starts against the Pirates, going 1-7 with a 5.91 ERA. He was tagged for seven runs and 11 hits over five innings in his most recent matchup, a 9-0 drubbing in Pittsburgh on Aug. 28.