Pirates' Burnett records complete-game victory

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates aren't the type of team to make splashy offseason moves.
However, they did add a pair of noted former New York Yankees during the previous two offseasons by trading for right-hander A.J. Burnett before the start of last season and signing catcher Russell Martin as a free agent last November.
Both have shined with the Pirates and helped them to a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, Burnett pitching an eight-hitter and Martin belting a three-run home run.
The Pirates, who have the best record in the major leagues at 67-44, kept their 1 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. The Pirates' 3.07 ERA is also the best in baseball.
Burnett can feel a bit of the Yankees-type mystique building with the Pirates, who have had 20 straight losing seasons.
"We expect to win every day," Burnett said. "If we don't win, we just get ready for tomorrow and expect to win the next day. That's the way good teams go about their business and the guys in this clubhouse do it."
Burnett (5-7) was businesslike as he pitched his first complete game of the season and 23rd of his 15-year career. He had nine strikeouts and one walk while throwing 83 of his 110 pitches for strikes and lowering his ERA to 2.73.
"That's a good offensive club," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the Rockies. "They can do some things and A.J. was able to work through the middle of the order pretty efficiently. Again, very aggressive, very focused. Ball's down. He took it to 'em."
Burnett had pitched more than seven innings just once in his previous 19 starts this season. However, he said he had no doubt he could finish off this one, especially buoyed by a home crowd that has made Burnett a favorite during his two seasons in Pittsburgh.
"I just felt good for all nine innings," Burnett said. "I knew my pitch count was low so I was confident I could get through the ninth. I take pride in finishing what I started. Those guys down there (in the bullpen) need a break and it's good to get a W."
The sellout crowd of 37,980 was on its feet when Burnett took the mound in the ninth inning.
"They've been awesome to me for the two years I've been here and they just give you that extra boost of energy," Burnett said.
The Pirates used leadoff doubles by Starling Marte in the first inning and Neil Walker in the third to help them take a 2-0 lead. Marte scored on Andrew McCutchen's single, and Walker came home on Garrett Jones' sacrifice fly.
McCutchen had two of the Pirates' eight hits.
Martin's home run in the fifth increased the lead to 5-0. After McCutchen walked with one out and Pedro Alvarez singled, Manuel Corpas relieved starter Juan Nicasio and served up Martin's 10th homer of the season.
While Martin was happy to make a big contribution, he said it was Burnett's day.
"He was outstanding," Martin said. "He's been pitching so well and hasn't had anything to show for it personally a lot of times. I'm really happy he got the win and the complete game."
Colorado manager Walt Weiss, whose team is 6-11 since the All-Star break to fall to 52-61, would not second guess his decision to bring in Corpas, noting that Nicasio had already thrown 103 pitches just to get 13 outs.
"I just felt more comfortable going with Manny there," Weiss said. "He has the good two-seamer and puts the ball on the ground. I was looking for a double play there."
Nicasio (6-6) was touched for four runs in 4 1/3 innings while allowing six hits and three walks and striking out four. It was Nicasio's second rough outing in a row as he gave up a career-high eight runs on Tuesday in a loss at Atlanta.
"I throw a lot of fastball that were balls or they fouled off," Nicasio said. "I couldn't put the hitters away."
Jonathan Herrera broke up Burnett's shutout with a two-out RBI single in the seventh. Herrera had three of the Rockies' seven hits and Michael Cuddyer had two hits.
"He threw me only one pitch all day I could hit and that was the first one," Colorado first baseman Todd Helton said. "He pitched great, put the ball wherever he wanted to."
NOTES: Colorado LF Carlos Gonzalez returned to the lineup after not starting any of the previous four games, though he did see action as a defensive replacement on Friday night. He went 1-for-4. ... Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado did not start for the first time since the All-Star break, and the rookie was replaced by INF D.J. LeMahieu, who usually plays second base. Herrera started at third. ... After missing two of the previous three games with a sore left knee, Martin was back in the lineup. ... Both teams are off Monday before opening three-game series Tuesday night. The Pirates will host the Miami Marlins with LHP Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.36) starting against RHP Henderson Alvarez (2-1, 2.61). Colorado will play the Mets at New York with RHP Tyler Chatwood (7-4, 3.15) pitching against RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-1, 2.08).