Pirates-Indians Preview

The Associated Press

A.J. Burnett's late-career renaissance in Pittsburgh hasn't been completely surprising considering he's taken full advantage of moving into pitcher-friendly PNC Park.

His trips outside the Steel City haven't gone quite so well.

Burnett looks to win a sixth straight start Saturday in Cleveland, where the Indians will try to take advantage of his major league-worst road ERA and hand the Pirates a fifth consecutive loss.

Burnett (6-2, 3.61 ERA) has benefited from moving back to the NL, and he's been downright dominant in Pittsburgh. His 1.27 home ERA is the majors' fourth-best, and he improved to 4-0 at PNC by holding Kansas City to two runs over 7 1-3 innings of Sunday's 3-2 win.

"You want to go out and go as deep as you can every time out," Burnett told the Pirates' official website. "It just worked that way."

Pittsburgh (32-31) has won Burnett's last seven outings - he's 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA - but only two of those have come on the road. He's 2-2 away from PNC with an 8.69 ERA, the worst mark among the 137 major league pitchers to have made at least four road starts.

He can become the first Pirates pitcher to win six straight starts overall since Doug Drabek did it during his 1990 Cy Young Award-winning season, but Progressive Field has never been kind to Burnett. He's 1-5 in six visits with a 6.75 ERA, his highest in any park where he's made more than five starts.

The Indians (33-30), though, haven't recently looked capable of adding to Burnett's shaky road numbers. Cleveland has totaled 15 runs and is batting .103 (4 for 39) with runners in scoring position over its last six games, but found enough offense to beat the Pirates 2-0 in Friday's series opener.

The Indians managed one hit in seven chances with runners in scoring position, but it was a significant one. Michael Brantley drove in Shin-Soo Choo with an eighth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to a major league season-high 22 games.

"What streak?'' joked Brantley, who's 1 for 7 lifetime versus Burnett.

Cleveland's offense isn't the only one having trouble scoring lately. The Pirates are 5 for 34 with runners in scoring position during their losing streak and have now been held to either one run or none 19 times on the season.

"We need to have a better understanding and awareness when we're in the (batter's) box," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Hurdle's very aware of what Cleveland's next starter is capable of doing. He managed Ubaldo Jimenez from 2006-2009 in Colorado, and the right-hander was 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in his first five career starts versus Pittsburgh before giving up four runs over four innings in a May 2011 loss.

Consistency has been the issue for Jimenez (6-4, 4.91) since arriving in Cleveland, but he's shown signs of turning around his rocky start. He held Detroit to one run over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-2 win June 5, then struck out seven without a walk before exiting after seven innings Sunday in St. Louis, allowing one run in a game the Indians eventually won 4-1.

"He was dominant," manager Manny Acta told the Indians' official website. "He had the good fastball with life and a little tail to it at the end, and had a good slider. Everything was working for him."

Jimenez is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts at home, where he's issued as many walks (19) as hits in 32 innings. The Pirates, however, have walked just 143 times - 17 fewer than the majors' next-lowest total.

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